Versatile wonton skins go beyond Chinese dumplings.

"Swallowing clouds"--the literal meaning of the Chinese characters for wontons--suggests the sensuous delight the Chinese take in eating little bundles of food neatly wrapped in noodles. And they aren't alone, judging from the worldwide popularity of dumplings, ravioli, krep-lach and dozens of other "packaged" foods.  Now ready-made wonton skins, or wrappers, make it easy to reproduce many of these variations at home--and to create your own. The skins, available at most supermarkets, are paper-thin sheets of dough made of flour, water, egg and salt, a mixture similar to fresh Italian egg pasta. The stretching and rolling of the dough until very thin lends it elasticity, making wonton skins ideal for pinching, folding and twisting into different shapes. Each sheet measures about 3 1/2 inches square (round skins are also available). The sheets are dusted with cornstarch to keep them from sticking together.

Wonton skins welcome all manner of fillings--savory or sweet, meaty or vegetarian, whether Asian or Italian or Eastern European in inspiration. The following recipes range from basic Chinese wontons, which can be made with pork or chicken, to cannelloni made with vegetables to raspberry- and chocolate-filled wontons, which are fried and dusted with confectioner's sugar. Experiment with your own combinations. The possibilities are infinite.

Rosa Ross is a teacher, caterer and writer who works in New York City. Her upcoming book Beyond Bok Choy: A Cook's Guide to Asian Vegetables (Artisan) will be out in June 1996.