Hearty Alpine Food – Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese

Pizzoccheri is the name of a Northern Italian pasta dish as well as a type of buckweed pasta, which shapewise, is not that dissimilar to short-cut tagliatelle. You can find pizzoccheri pasta in speciality stores, but you can also make it yourself (see e.g. Giallo Zafferano's videorecipe). Unlike many buckwheat based dishes, which are an acquired taste, this one is not too divisive, and is mostly liked by all: from bairns to grandparents.

For my version of this hearty Alpine dish you need three different cheese, preferably from the Valtellina, e.g. Bitto, Casera and Latteria, altogether 450–550 g, cut in 1/2 cm cubes. (the Swiss cheeses Gruyère and Fontina are fine alternatives) You also need 150 g of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. For cooking with the 1 kg buckweed pasta, you need 350g of shredded Savoy cabbage and 500 g of firm waxy textured potatoes diced in 1 cm cubes. To add an extra depth of flavour, I also boil 250 g of spinach and/or baby Swiss chard. For the Garlic Sage Butter "Ghee", you need 300 g butter, 3–6 halved gloves of garlic, 10–20 fresh sage leaves and 1/3 teaspoon of salt.

Pizzoccheri is eaten piping hot, so you need to be very quick in folding all the ingredients together! Within a few seconds of taking this picture all the wonderful cheese cubes had welded the pasta and the veggies together...

Start by preparing the Garlic Sage Butter "Ghee", by sauteing the garlic and sage in hot butter (be careful not to brown the garlic!!). As the garlic becomes translucent, remove it and the sage leaves, then season the ghee with salt. Keep the ghee warm.

Place into a large pot of fiercely boiling water a couple of tbsp of coarse sea salt, the diced potatoes and the shredded cabbage. After 5 minutes boiling, add the buckweed pasta and continue cooking for 8–10 minutes, depending on the cooking time. Two minutes before the pasta is ready, mix in the spinach and/or Swiss chard leaves. Drain into a colander. As "Pizzoccheris" are to be eaten piping hot, you need to very quick in folding carefully together the steaming hot pasta and veggies, diced cheese, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and the Garlic Sage Ghee in a preheated bowl. Decorate the portions with fresh sage leaves and serve with Nebbiolo wine.

Copyright © The Enogastronomist — Learning begets hunger.©