Vargabéles is a Transylvanian dessert, its hometown is Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca). It was first made in the restaurant of the Darvas family in the 1920s or 1930s. It’s a special cake that consists of a cottage cheese – pasta filling and two layers of dough. The dough was originally a shortcrust pastry, but nowadays it’s replaced by store-bought phyllo dough sheets. The recipe was so treasured that vargabéles was delivered by plane from Kolozsvár to the Gundel restaurant in Budapest during the World War II.
The cake’s specialty lies in the filling: it’s a combination of a cottage cheese cream and cooked angel hair/vermicelli pasta (cérnametélt in Hungarian). The filling is covered by phyllo dough, but if you can’t aquire it, feel free to use puff pastry or knead a plain shortcrust pastry. Vargabéles can be served as a dessert or as a main dish after a hearty, thick soup.
- 400 g (~14 oz) cottage cheese
- 150 g (~5 1/4 oz) angel hair pasta (cérnametélt)
- 50 g (~1 3/4 oz) melted butter
- 50 (~1 3/4 oz) raisins
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp vanilla sugar
- 150 g (~5 1/4 oz) sour cream
- zest of a lemon
- pinch of salt
- 6-8 phyllo dough sheets
- 4-5 tbsp oil for spreading the dough sheets
- 1 egg for spreading the top
Size of the baking pan: 20×30 cm / 8×11 inches
Soak raisins in lukewarm water.
Cook the pasta in a pot of slightly salted water until tender. Drain the noodles and combine immediately with melted butter. Set aside.
Place cottage cheese in a bowl. Add sugar, vanilla sugar, lemon zest, egg yolks and raisins, and mix them thoroughly. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the foam in the cottage cheese mixture. Finally stir in the pasta.
Preheat the oven to 170°C / 338°F.
Grease a baking pan, then line it with 3-4 phyllo dough sheets (spread oil on each sheet when placing them in the pan). Spoon the filling on the top of the dough layer and spread evenly. Cover it with the remaining dough sheets (don’t forget to spread oil on them). The last step is to spread beaten egg on top of the cake.
Place the pan into the oven and bake the cake for 35-40 minutes or until top is golden brown.
Let the cake cool a bit, then cut into fair-sized squares. Serve lukewarm, dust with powdered sugar if you want.