Pizzoccheri is a homey dish for the cold months, linked to the traditions of the Alpine farmers. The original recipe comes from a small village named Teglio in Valtellina (Lombardy), a well known ski area in the heart of the Alps.
The name pizzoccheri seems to derive either from the root of the word, piz (pezzetto, piece of pasta) or from the word pinzare (to staple – to press) referring to the shape of the pasta (short and thin strips). In fact, pizzocheri are a type of short tagliatelle or fettuccine pasta made of 80% buckwheat flour, a brownish-gray flour with a nutty flavor, and 20% wheat flour. The rustic flavor of the pasta pairs well with the smooth taste of vegetables such as Savoy cabbage, potatoes and the intense flavor of the Valtellina’s cheeses, such as bitto and casera DOP (Protected Geographical Status). Last but not least this recipe is flavored with sage, a delicious Italian aromatic herb. Sage is tasty, healthy and versatile, you can use it in different recipe like this appetizing whole grain spaghett recipe – Whole grain spaghetti with creamy pumpkin sauce and crispy presunto.
Casera cheese is made from partially-skimmed cow milk, and its origins date back the sixteenth century. It has a nutty and sweet taste; instead bitto cheese has a stronger and more intense taste due to the presence of goat milk (about 20%). Pizzoccheri is by no means a light dish, but at the same it is a hearty and tasty treat, especially after a strenuous day on the ski slopes.
It is an excellent vegetarian dish (it does contain dairy products, though). You can enjoy it as first course or as a main dish. This recipe belongs to my book Love is Eating.
Total preparation time: 30 minutes Servings: 4-5
225 g(½ pound) Savoy cabbage, finely chopped
225 g (½pound) potatoes, peeled and chopped in small cubes
100 g (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 whole garlic cloves
5 fresh sage leaves
340 g (12 oz) pizzoccheri pasta
70 g (2.5 oz) bitto cheese, thin slices
130 g (4.5 oz) Valtellina casera cheese, thin slices
100 g (1 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a large pan boil 3 l (3 quarts) salted water, add the cabbage and boil for 5 minutes. Drain well and set aside. Add the potatoes to the same pan of boiling water, cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Drain well and set aside, reserving the water to cook the pasta
- Sauté one garlic clove in half the butter in a large skillet over a medium-low heat. Add the cabbage, potatoes and sauté gently. Cover to keep warm and moist
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the vegetable water, according to package cooking instructions (12-15 min.). Drain, reserving 60 ml (1/4 cup) of cooking water. Add the pasta to the warm vegetable mix in the skillet. Add the cooking water and toss very gently
- Heat the remaining butter with the sage and the other garlic clove in a small pan over a medium flame. Remove the garlic clove. Put half the pasta and vegetable mix in a heat resistant serving dish. Cover with half of the bitto and half of the casera cheese. Pour half the butter and sage on top, then sprinkle with half of the Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper. Repeat this step with the remaining products. Serve hot! It is important that the pasta and the vegetables are hot to melt the cheese. To melt the cheese thoroughly you can also put the pizzocheri in a preheated oven at 180°C (350°F) for 4-5 minutes.
Note: You can substitute the cabbage with either Swiss chard or spinach. If you cannot find either casera or bitto cheese , I recommend to use fontina cheese, another mountain cheese from Valle d’Aoasta. You can buy either dry pizzoccheri, but fresh pasta might be available in specialty stores, too. The cooking time is slightly different, check the directions on the packaging. -Paola