Stuffed Pasta Types From Around the World: What’s the Difference?


There’s no denying that pasta is a comfort food favorite around the world, and stuffed pasta is perhaps even better. A doughy exterior contains a delicious filling that can be varied to your heart’s content. But when it comes to the different pasta types, things grow a bit more complicated.

Tortellini, ravioli, cannelloni, manicotti… but also pelmeni, pierogi, khinkali, vareniki, boraki, manti… it would seem that the only thing these pasta types have in common is an “i” at the end! But never fear; you’ll soon be an expert of stuffed pastas from across the globe.

Tortellini is an Italian pasta whose name roughly translates to small tortelli, a term formerly used in Italian to designate all stuffed pasta, which is a diminutive form of torte, savory stuffed pies. Tortellini’s alternative name, ombelici, means navels, a reference to their ring-shaped name. Slightly larger tortellini are called tortelloni. Either are delicious in brodoor in broth, as well as in a tortellini salad, accompanied by spring vegetables or with asparagus, fresh peas and lemon sauce.

Ravioli is yet another Italian pasta, though it has a shape distinct of the tortellini. Ravioli are sealed between two layers of dough, and can be as small or as large as you like. When only one is served, it is called a raviolo. A particularly delicious raviolo specialty is raviolo all’uovo, or a raviolo stuffed with an egg. The egg cooks inside the pasta, and when served, is broken opened to form the sauce. Stuffed with butternut squash, ravioli can be paired with a spiced butternut squash sauce.

Cannelloni and manicotti are frequently confused. Both are rolled, tubular pastas that are stuffed with some sort of filling. But while in the States we often find manicotti “tubes” in stores, manicotti, which means “sleeves” in Italian, is actually meant to be made with small crêpe-like pasta that is rolled around a filling. Cannelloni are tubes of pasta that are stuffed with a filling. Whichever you find, these stuffed pastas are perfect for homemade fillings, like Swiss chard and goat cheese cannelloni or kale and mushroom cannelloni. To try your hand at a truly traditional manicotti, you’ll need to make the pasta first.

While many stuffed pastas are, of course, of Italian origin, there are just as many from the four corners of the globe. Try Russian pelmeniwhich are made with an unleavened, buttermilk dough and stuffed with a meaty filling. A special pan helps to make them more easily. The Armenian version of this dish, borakiis usually served fried.

Another Russian pasta specialty is vareniki, very similar to Polish pierogi, which are so reminiscent of their Italian counterparts that they are occasionally called Polish ravioli. A great deal of different fillings are possible, but simple potato pierogi are always a favorite, if a little heavy on the carbs!

Khinkali hail from Georgia and are shaped like little bags. Forming khinkali can be a challenge, but once you have the method down, you can fill them with your choice of ingredients, including meat khinkali seasoned with herbs and cheese with mint. Unlike many other pastas, the thin part of the dough surrounding the filling is not eaten in the case of khinkali; only the upper part and filling are consumed.

In Turkey, the stuffed pasta of choice is manti, which has its own unique four-cornered shape and is often served in yogurt sauce. An Armenian manti exists, though the shape of this version is more akin to a canoe, complete with an open top.

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Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco