This week we are going to discover the pizzoccheri, a traditional peasant dish from the Lombardy region, and more precisely from an area called Valtellina, which is a stunning valley bordering Switzerland.
Pizzoccheri are thick and short tagliatelle-like pasta, made with a mix of buckwheat flour and durum wheat (the traditional proportions are 80% buckwheat and 20% durum wheat), which confer to the dish a very earthy, rustic flavour. Traditionally they are served with cheese, potatoes and savoy cabbage, but the latter can be substituted with other vegetables, such as cavolo nero, Swiss chards, or green beans.
It is an incredibly tasty dish, loved also by children, very comforting and ideal to warm up these cold winter evenings. Try to make it at home this weekend, it is very easy and relatively quick to prepare.
Ingredients for 4 portions:
For the pizzoccheri:
- 400 gr of Buckwheat flour
- 100 gr of fine semolina
- 250gr of water
For the relish:
- 100 gr of butter
- 250 gr of Valtellina Casera DOP Cheese
- 150gr of grated parmesan cheese
- 250gr of Savoy cabbage
- 300gr of potatoes
- 1 garlic clove
- Pepper and salt to taste
1. To make the pizzoccheri, mix the two flours and put them in a large bowl. Create a well in the middle and pour the water in. Mix the flour to the water and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it becomes homogeneous and elastic. Wrap it in cling film and let it rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour in a cool place.
2. On a floured flat surface, flatten the dough with a rolling pin until it is about 2-3 mm thick (about the thickness of a 1 pound coin). A pasta machine can be also used, rolling the dough through the largest setting only. However, since the dough is very low in gluten, it will tend to break apart when passed through the rolls: to get a nice sheet of pasta, just overlap the various pieces and pass them through the rolls again.
Repeat this process until the sheet rolls without breaking (it will take 4 or 5 rolling).
Let the sheets dry for about 15 minutes on a floured cotton tablecloth or unlacquered wooden surface.
3. Flour the pasta sheets. With a sharp knife, cut strips long 7-8 cm and large 5mm. Separate them and don’t overlap them, as they might stick together. You have made the pizzoccheri. Let them rest as you prepare the vegetables.
4. Fill a large pot with salted water and bring it to boil. Wash the cabbage and cut it in strips as thick as the pizzoccheri, then dice the potatoes. Add them to the boiling water. After about 5 minutes, add the pizzoccheri (handling them with care, as the might break) and let cook for another 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the cheese in small pieces and pre-heat the oven at 200˚C/ gas mark 6.
5. With a large slotted spoon, take the pizzoccheri and the vegetables and place them in an oven dish, layering them with the diced cheese and the grated parmesan, terminating with a layer of cheese and parmesan. Crush the garlic and add it in a small pot with the butter, cooking until the garlic turns slightly golden. Pour the butter over the pizzoccheri and put the dish in the oven for about 10 minutes, just long enough for the cheese to melt but not to take any colour. Serve hot, dusted with pepper, and with a glass of Beaujolais or Pinot Noir.
The Valtellina Casera DOP is a typical cheese of the Valtellina area, made with semi-skimmed cow milk. Unfortunately it is very hard to find it the UK. Instead, Fontina, Taleggio, or a mix of these two cheese can be used: however –although still very tasty- the flavour will not be the original one.