Russian Vareniki: Sweet (and Not-So-Sweet) Recipes

PHOTO by timolina / Depositphotos
Three delicious variations on a theme

Dumplings, ravioli, pierogi, vareniki, wontons, khinkali, manta, momos, or gyoza, no matter what you call the dish, how many names it has, or from which country it originates, almost all of them can be described as a dish consisting of a filling which is wrapped into a simple flour and water dough.

We have gathered a collection of recipes for ravioli and their closest Russian relatives, pelmeni [which is the Russian word for dumplings] and vareniki [traditionally a sweet variety, so closer to pierogi], in an attempt to demonstrate an entirely new, food-based level of international relations and communication.

Below you will find recipes for vareniki with classical cherry filling to satisfy your sweet tooth, with mushroom and potato filling and a pumpkin and ricotta filling, which even Italians might be tempted to mistake for a dish belonging to their own traditions.

Deep-fried Cherry Vareniki

In case you use frozen cherries for this recipe, there is no need to defrost them first. The only thing you will need to do is remove any excess ice from the berries while making the filling.

Cook's tip: You don't have to limit yourself to using just cherries to make these vareniki, and you can easily replace them with any other kind of berries (note that if you are using fresh berries, you will need 800 g), the vanilla can be easily replaced with cinnamon, and the pierogi themselves don’t necessarily have to be deep-fried, but can be simply boiled.

Vereniki cherry
Deep-fried Cherry Vareniki

Serves 5

Ingredients
special pierogi dough1 kg
sugar150 g
frozen cherries 1 kg
vanilla pods2
vegetable oil1 l
Preparation30 minutes
1

To make the dough, mix together 500g of wheat flour and 430g of potato starch, beat 4 eggs into the mix and then knead the dough using your hands. Slowly pour in the cold water, starting with one tablespoon, then add more if needed, until the dough becomes even. Put the dough on a surface dusted with flour and knead it well until it becomes firm and springy. Cover the dough with foil and leave at room temperature for 20 minutes. Roll out until it is about 3 mm thick and cut out circles roughly 8 cm in diameter.

2

Pour the refined vegetable oil into a deep frying pan and put on a medium heat.

3

Make the vareniki. Place three or four frozen cherries into the centre of each circle and sprinkle a good pinch of sugar on top, adding some vanilla beans taken from the pods. Seal the edges.

4

Put a portion of dumplings into the hot oil, and use a draining spoon to take them out after three or four minutes; lay them out on a plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Vareniki with Mushroom and Potato Filling

Once the vareniki are shaped and sealed, you can easily freeze them for up to 2-3 weeks.

Vareniki potato
Vareniki with Mushroom and Potato Filling

Serves 5

Ingredients
special pierogi dough1 kg
potatoes500 g
onions3
carrot 1
champignon mushrooms100 g
vegetable oil20 ml
butter80 g
sour cream 150 g
bay laurel leaves2
Seasoning to taste
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
Preparation40 minutes
1

To make the dough, mix together 500g of wheat flour and 430g of potato starch, beat 4 eggs into the mix and then knead the dough using your hands. Slowly pour in the cold water, starting with one tablespoon, then add more if needed, until the dough becomes even. Put the dough on a flour-dusted surface and knead it well until it becomes firm and springy. Cover the dough with foil and leave at room temperature for 20 minutes. Roll out until it is about 3 mm thick and cut out circles of about 8cm diameter.

2

Peel the potatoes, then cut them into halves and set to boil, adding the onion and carrot; if you prefer a stronger taste you can use a cooking burner on the onion and carrot first. Bring the heat down to medium. Add bay leaf and spices to taste, then add salt and cook until ready, i.e. until potatoes are tender. Throw away the onion and carrot and drain the water.

3

Chop the mushrooms and remaining onions in small cubes and fry them in vegetable oil until soft, then allow to cool.

4

Mash the potatoes, mix in the onions and the mushrooms. Taste, add salt and pepper if necessary.

5

To make the vareniki you will need roughly two teaspoons of filling per circle of dough. If you are making larger vareniki, you are more than welcome to use more filling.

6

In a saucepan bring 1.5 litres of water to a boil, and start boiling the vareniki in portions of 9-10 pieces. Once they come up to the surface, check the time and boil them for a further 7 minutes until ready.

7

Lay the cooked vareniki out on a plate, and pour melted butter and sour cream on top.

Vareniki with Pumpkin and Ricotta

You can use homemade cottage cheese instead of ricotta cheese, which will make the filling even more interesting.

Vareniki pumpkin
Vareniki with Pumpkin and Ricotta

Serves 10

Ingredients
special pierogi dough800 g
olive oil2 tbsp
butter15 g
brown sugar3 g
pumpkin1
pumpkin oil3 tsp
ricotta cheese 150 g
38% cream200 ml
peeled pumpkin seeds2 g
chicken stock100 g
shallot100 g
grated parmesan2 g
thyme stems2
basil stem1
coriander stems6
dill stems3
bay laurel leaves3
garlic cloves2
black pepper peas4 g
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
Preparation1 hour
1

Peel a small pumpkin and remove the seeds. Take 150g of its flesh, cut it into very small cubes and fry in olive oil and butter for three minutes, then add sugar to caramelize the pumpkin, and add some thyme and coriander for the aroma. Add pepper and seasoning. Switch off the heat after another two minutes and add a little bit of pumpkin oil.

2

For the filling, mix the caramelized pumpkin with ricotta cheese and add 3 finely chopped sprigs of coriander, as well as salt to taste.

3

Use the remaining pumpkin to make the cream. Fry the pumpkin together with a spring of thyme in olive oil, until it becomes so soft it starts to disintegrate the fibre. Add pepper and shallot and fry on a low heat for another 10-15 minutes, then stir in the chicken stock and let the pumpkin stew until the stock has boiled off completely.

4

Take it off the stove, drain the water, add the cream, pumpkin seed oil and then grind the mix in a blender.

5

To make the stock, pour 5 litres of water into a deep saucepan, then add salt, bay leaf, crushed garlic, black pepper peas and dill stems, and put the pan on to boil.

6

While the water has heated up and begins to boil, make the vareniki by rolling the dough until it is 1 mm thick and cut it into circles of 4.5 cm in diameter. Place 5g of filling into the centre of each circle, fold them in half and pinch the sides, as if braiding them. Add the vareniki to the boiling broth and cook for 5-6 minutes.

7

Sprinkle the pumpkin cream with chopped sunflower seeds, lay the vareniki out on top, and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.