Lenivie vareniki is a classic Ukrainian recipe that I completely forgot about until a recent visit to, out of all places, an Italian restaurant. This year for my birthday, I had dinner with my family at this awesome place in my neighborhood called Lea. Lea churns out killer wood-fired pizzas – the kind with a little charring around the edges and minimal toppings to help the beautiful chewy dough stand out (my favorite!) – as well as creative pastas and thoughtful vegetable sides.
Seeing as we were a hungry party of 6, we were able to taste more than half of the menu. One of the items we ordered were these plump ricotta gnudi in a mushroom consomme. As the dish circled around to my corner of the table, I popped one into my mouth and instantly had a flashback. I was reminded of lenivie vareniki (pronounced leh-nee-vi-YEAH vAH-reh-nee-key), a sweet-savory dish my mom used to make for breakfast.
Whereas Italian gnudi are made of ricotta and are typically savory, Ukrainian lenivie vareniki are made of farmer cheese, tossed in melted butter, and served for breakfast with sour cream and granulated sugar. What Lea’s gnudi and my mom’s lenivie vareniki had in common was their pillowy soft texture. I immediately pulled out my phone and made a note to share the recipe on my blog.
Lenivie means “lazy” and vareniki are Ukrainian pierogi – stuffed dumplings. What makes them lazy is the fact that the would-be cheese stuffing is mixed straight into the dough versus being used as a filling (kind of like these Moldovan lazy flatbreads). The dough is basically the same thing as the one for syrniki, except that syrniki are fried and lazy vareniki are boiled. Be sure to use a light touch when mixing the dough as it’s imperative to ensure the pillowy texture of the final product. I’m sure some households get fancy and serve this dish with honey or fruit preserves. At my house we have a strict sour-cream-and-sugar-only policy as it helps the savory taste of the farmer cheese stand out.
- 2 large eggs
- 1 pound farmer cheese (two 7.5-ounce Friendship brand packets)
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (I use raw turbinado sugar), plus more to serve
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- About 4 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Sour cream, to serve
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.
- In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs using a fork. Add the farmer cheese, sugar, vanilla and salt. Stir until a homogeneous mixture forms. Add 2 heaping tablespoons of flour and gently fold it into the dough. The final dough should be light but no longer sticky to the touch. Using your hands, continue incorporating another tablespoon or two of flour into the dough until it is no longer sticky.
- Prepare a lightly floured platter/tray for the vareniki; set aside.
- Divide the dough into 3 pieces and place 1 piece onto a lightly floured surface. Gently roll the dough into a log about 1" in diameter. Cut the log into ¾" pieces; if your knife is sticking, sprinkle the dough lightly with a bit of flour. Place the cut pieces onto prepared platter and continue with the 2 remaining pieces of dough.
- Pour the melted butter into a large serving bowl; set aside.
- Once the water is boiling, gently place the vareniki into the pot along the sides of the pot to prevent a splash. Using a slotted spoon, gently stir the water. Cook the vareniki in batches as to not overcrowd the pot. Once the vareniki float to the top, about 1 minute, cook them for an additional 30 seconds and transfer them to the serving bowl with butter. Gently toss in butter, and continue boiling the rest.
- Serve lenivie vareniki hot, with sour cream and extra sugar for sprinkling.
- (Leftover vareniki can be reheated in a skillet with a bit of butter).