Today suddenly turned into a pierogie day. I didn’t really plan on spending hours today making them, but that’s okay. I’m happy to be doing it on a cold blustery day when I plan on staying in anyway. Pierogies are like little dumplings, pasta dough filled with mashed potatoes and cheese. They can also be made with sauerkraut and potatoes or onions and potatoes, but with cheese is how we do them.
Don’t be afraid of making fresh pasta – the dough is very forgiving, and can be re-rolled as needed. It’s very basic. and once you are comfortable making it, think beyond pierogies – ravioli are also filled puffs of pasta dough!
The same little pierogie can be made as a treat when filled with fruit or chocolate – that’s another column.
It started when I asked my husband what kind of soup he would like this week. I make a batch every weekend. He said split pea and ham. So I say okay, I have a ham in the freezer, no problem. But what to have with it?
As I wander into the kitchen I see the big bowl of potatoes I washed off last night. My local store had a boy one, get on on potatoes – great deal right? Except after sitting on the floor overnight, I picked one bag up only to find leakage all over- one bad potato in there I thought. Turns out there were a couple bad ones in each bag. So yes, I could have made a trip back to the store and returned them, but that’s more gas and time than a couple potatoes are worth. So I has been thinking about what to do to use them, since we only eat russet potatoes once or twice a week.
The it hit me – pierogies! these are a favorite of my husband. My mother-in-law was Polish/Ukrainian, and she taught me to make them many years ago. On occasion, we would get together with my sister -in-law and brother-in-law and spend an evening making large batches. Pierogies are somewhat labor intensive, but at the end I have packages in the freezer for many meals.
My mother-in-law did everything by hand, of course. I use my mixer to not only whip the potatoes but to make the pasta dough.
So here’s the basic organization time line for me, and the recipe is below.
Start by peeling a bunch of potatoes – the more mashed potatoes you make the more pasta dough you will end up making. If I have more potatoes, I end up making another batch of pasta dough or save them to make fried potatoes cakes.
Start the potatoes – peel and slice or cut into chunks and boil until fork tender. I drain well, and let them steam to dry out a little. Then make mashed potatoes however you do it – with a ricer, potato masher, or with a mixer. Add in enough butter and milk or cream so they are mashed well, but err for the stiff side, rather than too fluffy. Add in as much grated cheddar cheese as you like. Grated Parmesan also adds a nice salty touch. Although I have never tried it, cream cheese or ricotta would add a cheesy creaminess to the potatoes. If you want, stir in some chopped chives, thyme or basil.
While the potatoes cook, I make a big batch of pasta dough in my Kitchen Aid. It will need to rest after kneading.
I use the pasta attachment on my Kitchen Aid to roll out the dough, but it can be done with a hand roller, or, as my mother-in-law did, rolled by hand with a rolling pin. The dough needs to be fairly thin.
I use a 3″ round cookie cutter to cut the pieces, then fill with a teaspoon or so of the mashed potato mix. Seal up well, and then get ready to cook. I like to freeze them at this point, but according to my MIL and every recipe I’ve seen for pierogies, they should be boiled first, pulled out with a spider strainer or large slotted spoon to a bowl, slathered in butter and then frozen. My experience it that either way works.
Once ready to assemble, I cut the dough into quarters, using only one piece at a time, the rest wrapped in the plastic. With a pasta machine, you’ll work the dough to #5 or 6 on the dial – that makes it just thick enough. And pasta dough is flexible and stretches, so it’s easy to pull it larger to seal the pierogies.
You’ll find a rhythm that works for you. I usually end up making half a dozen circles, filling them, then moving on. Lay finished pierogies on a sheet pan, either sprayed with nonstick spray or on parchment paper.
Potato and Cheese Pierogies
Pierogies are little pockets of dough filled with any number of things. We use mashed potatoes and cheese, for a savory side dish great with any meal.
- 2-3 pounds potatoes
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4-1/2 cup milk or cream
- 2 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup butter
- 3 cup white flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 large eggs
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 c melted butter
- 3-4 tbsp water
Peel and slice or chop potatoes. Put in cold water and set on the stove to boil. It helps to rinse them with water a couple times before cooking to remove some of the starch.
Once fork tender, drain well.
Mash or whip the potatoes, just as you would make any mashed potatoes. Add butter and milk & mash or whip well, to create lump free potatoes.
Stir in the grated cheese (or sauerkraut, or onions, mushrooms, etc). Cheese will melt into hot potatoes.
Allow to cool.
Place all the flour in a bowl, and add all the eggs and salt at once. Use the dough hook of a mixer to mix well and knead for several minutes. If it's too dry, add a tbsp of water. This can also be done my hand on a floured board. Even with the mixer, I usually turn out and knead a few time by hand. wrap in plastic and let rest once done.
Assembly and cooking
Roll out the dough about 1/8th of an inch thick - fairly thin since it will puff a bit once cooked. Cut into rounds, about 3" in diameter. A cookie cutter works, or even a glass or clean open ended can.
Place 2-3 tsp of cold mashed potato mix on one half, fold over into a half moon, and seal the dough with a bit of water. Make sure the edges are pinched closed, otherwise the filling will disappear into the boiling water when being cooked. The dough is quite flexible and will stretch to cover the filling.
I usually cut the dough into quarters and work one piece at a time. Keep the rest wrapped in the plastic so it doesn't dry out. Roll out until it's almost thin enough. I cut it in half again to make each piece more manageable, cut out the rounds and stuff as I go along. You'll find a rhythm and process that works for you.
Place the filled pieces on cookie trays, and cover with a towel until ready to cook. I prefer to freeze them at this point, but you can also continue on, below, and then freeze.
Heat a large pot of water. Once it simmers well, or comes to a low boil, drop the pierogies in a few at a time. Stir to make sure they done't stick to the bottom. They will float to the surface as they cook, about 5 minutes. I flip them over for a couple minutes before removing them with a slotted spoon or spider, allowing all water to drain off.
Drop into a well butter bowl. My mother-in-law melted butter ( a lot of butter) and kept it warm to pour over them. The butter prevents them from sticking together.
At this point, the pierogies can be eaten as is, although we prefer to fry them briefly in butter or olive oil. This is also where they can be frozen.
To freeze: lay them out on a parchment covered sheet pan, or use a silicon sheet. Leave them separated, and put the whole tray in the freezer to flash freeze. In an hour or so, once partially frozen, they can be removed and placed in zipper bags or vacuum sealed. Now I can remove as many as I want for a meal in the future. I usually put a dozen in a packet - enough for one meal for us.
Re-roll the dough as needed to use up the scraps once the rounds are cut. Do keep the dough covered as you work, otherwise it can dry out quickly.
Once the sheets of dough start getting longer, I cut in half or thirds and work one piece at a time.
When using a pasta maker, roll the dough to #5 or 6, and it will be just the right thickness.
I’ve estimated amounts of ingredients for the recipe – the amount of pasta depends on the amount of mashed potatoes, and the amount of potatoes depends on how much pasta dough you make. Extra of either can be used up other ways.
I ended up needing to make a second batch of dough today (I made a lot of potatoes!), and I ended with 7 dozen pierogies for the freezer and a dozen left for dinner. No one will complain about that! And a bit of left over dough was run through the linguini rollers of my pasta machine, so I had that for lunch.
What pierogie filling do you make?