The Arrival of Pasta in Russia

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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The passage below is by Joyce Toomre (1992). She says that the eastern origin of noodles and ravioli-like preparations in Russia is well established by etymological evidence.

Both the words and the products show their Eastern roots. The Russian word for noodles, lapsha, comes from Turkic instead of the Germanic nudel from which both the English noodle and French nouille derive. According to Kovalev, the word for small Siberian dumplings, pel’meni, comes from Finno-Ugric while their shape and filling resemble the Central Asian chuchvar and manti, the Turkish borek, and the Georgian khinkali. Only vareniki, another type of filled dumpling, show their Slavic origins directly since the name derives from the verb varit’, to boil. Vareniki are prevalent in the Ukraine and are more likely to have entered Russia across the Polish border from Eastern Europe and Austria-Hungary. Vermicelli and macaroni were both later imports from Western Europe. Dal’, the great Russian lexicographer of the nineteenth century, defined vermishel’ (vermicelli) as ital’janskaja lapsha (Italian noodles) and makarony (macaroni) as trubchataja lapsha (tubular noodles) or ital’janskaja trubki (Italian tubes).