Vargabéles / Hungarian sweet noodle & sweet cottage cheese cake

Fettucine pasta dressed and baked in a sweet flavourful mixture of cottage cheese, vanilla and lemon zest might be your next discovery! Texture and flavours are dope - a dessert that should be made all across the globe.

Born and raised in Transylvania, I grew up with this dreamy dessert that I know will sound weird at first. Yet let me tell you this has angelic flavours and a texture so satisfying, you'll need a second portion right away.

Here, we call it a 'pudding' (of course, technically, it isn't a pudding) and we make this with fresh, 'dry' cottage cheese mixed with eggs, loads of vanilla, lemon zest and soaked (could be in rum) raisins.

This mixture will nicely coat the cooked fettuccine, then be transferred to a baking pan greased with butter, and the dish will be baked until nice and brown on top. What a beauty!


We Romanian (and myself especially!) are huge fans of everything sweet cheese. When I went vegan, cottage cheese was the only cheese I sometimes missed. So when I decided to eat animal products again, a couple of years ago, yes you guessed it- first thing I went for was cottage cheese.

There are so many things we use this vanilla and lemon zest cottage cheese mix for. We make our stuffed flat bread with this filling, pies of all sorts, stuffed pancake cake (very interesting, I'll show you one day how!), rice puddings, dumplings, shortcakes and so many more, it’s crazy. Well actually it is not. It's just so good!


I'll leave you with a this sweet description of Vargabéles, spotted at OffBeat Budapest:

This rich dessert treat harks back to the Transylvania of the 1930s, where it was one of the signature offerings of Darvas restaurant in the city of Cluj (Kolozsvár). The dish bo renowned that Budapest-based Gundel restaurant would order same-day deliveries by air. The strudel-cake encloses fresh túró (cottage cheese) layered with thin noodles and a sweet and light and raisins-laced cream. Restaurants usually serve a generously portioned slice as a second course after soup.

I hope you'll give it a try!


Vargabéles / Hungarian sweet noodle & sweet cottage cheese cake

Vegetarian

Makes 12-14 portions

Total time: 45 minutes


Ingredients

  • 4 eggs, beaten

  • 200 g caster sugar

  • 500 g cottage cheese

  • 2-3 tsp vanilla extract

  • lemon zest from 1 lemon

  • 60 g melted butter

  • 100 g raisins, soaked in hot water (or rum)

  • 250 g fettuccine pasta

  • 3 tsp sea salt

  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

  • 1 tbsp confectioner's sugar


Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/380F and grease a 31cm X 20cm / 12-inch X 8-inch baking pan with 1-2 tsp softened butter. I used my 31 cm Falcon Enamelware baking pan.

  2. Start by making the cheese mixture: in a bowl of a stand mixer, add the beaten eggs and caster sugar. Mix until slightly fluffy and lighter in color, about 5-7 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Bring a large pot with water and about 3 tsp of salt to a boil.

  4. Add the fettuccine and cook until al dente, about 8-9 minutes, or according to the package instructions. As a general rule, add 1 litre of water for every 100 g of pasta.

  5. Meanwhile, add the cottage cheese to the mixed eggs. Add vanilla, lemon zest, soaked raisins and a pinch of sea salt. Mix on low until everything is well combined.

  6. Reserve 1/3 cup of the mixture to top the cake. Set both mixtures aside.

  7. Strain the cooked pasta and transfer them to the cheese mixture. Use a wooden spoon or a spatula to coat the pasta in the cheese mixture.

  8. Transfer to the prepared baking pan and spread the pasta evenly. Top with the reserved cheese mixture, spread evenly with a spatula and sprinkle with cinnamon.

  9. Bake for 25-30 mins. or until golden brown on top.

  10. When ready, leave to cool on the counter for at least 15 minutes, then cut into squares and serve warm. Sift the top with confectioners sugar before serving.

This noodle cake is wonderful warm or cold as well. Enjoy!


Notes

For this cake, I recommend a cottage cheese that is 'dry', and not the creamy, salty variety that is to be found in most supermarkets. You can find this at your local Eastern European shop.


To hydrate the raisins, soak them for at least 1 hours in hot water. If you want to soak the raisins in rum, use a good quality rum and soak them overnight or for at least 3 hours.


I was running low on cottage cheese when I cooked and photographed this for my website, but keep in mind yours will have slightly more cheese, as it should!