Valtellina is a beautiful Alpine valley that borders Switzerland in Northern Italy. Famous for Bresaola, Valtellina is also known for its cheeses, in particular Valtellina Casera, used in this delicious recipe.
Pizzoccheri are kind of a short tagliatelle pasta, made with a mix of buckwheat and wheat flour. The original recipe calls pizzoccheri to be cooked along with greens (savoy cabbage, swiss chard or bok choy) and cubed potatoes. After 20 minutes of cooking, this mixture is layered with fine sliced or cubed Valtellina Casera and grated Parmigiano and dressed with butter-fried sage and garlic.
GROCERY SHOPPING (4 people)
11.2 oz of Pizzoccheri
5.6 oz of Potatoes
4.4 oz of Butter
4.4 oz of clean Savoy cabbage, Swiss Chard or Bok Choy
5.6 oz of Valtellina Casera (or Fontina)
3.5 of Parmigiano Reggiano
8 leaves of Sage
2 cloves of garlic
Salt & Pepper
These proportions are exactly for 4 full dishes. If you have gluttonous people at your table, prepare something more.
Note on processing Valtellina Casera: This is usually a semi-soft cheese. The aged version is harder and more intense in flavor. The semi-soft version will melt in no time either if you cube it or if you slice it. If the cheese you find is aged, slice it as fine as possible for the best melting result. If you cube it, it won’t melt that fast and you’ll get little cheesy morsels (more or less the size of the potato, depending on how big you cube them, sure). Totally up to you. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle :)
1) Wash the veggies. Cut the greens in small pieces and cube the potatoes. Grate Parmigiano and slice/cube Casera. Put a pasta pot with plenty of salted water over medium heat — if you use a tall 8-qt pot, make sure you also have a lid during cooking; big pots strive to keep the water boiling.
2) When the water is boiling, add potatoes and green and stir. After 5 minutes, add pizzoccheri and let it boil for 15-2o minutes. You want the pasta to be ‘al dente’, the potatoes to be soft (not overcooked) and the greens to be green (not washed out). In the meanwhile, melt butter with sage and garlic and let it fry until butter turns nut-brown. When ready, remove from heat, discard garlic and let it stand.
3) Turn on the oven in warming mood and place the dishes and the big bowl you’re gonna use for layering.
4) Next, drain very well pasta and veggies in a colander. Take the warm bowl from the oven and start layering with cheeses. Pasta and veggies, some grated Parmigiano, Casera, and repeat the sequence until all the ingredients are finished. Coat with fried butter, garlic and sage. Mix, add pepper to taste and serve in the warm dishes immediately.
THE ADVICE FROM THE BOWL
Pizzoccheri have essentially a couple of secrets. First, properly frying the garlic with sage in the butter is essential for coating. Second, serving in warm dishes; the draining/layering process causes heat loss and both the warm bowl and the warm dishes help keeping the right temperature for the pizzoccheri to be served still hot.
The producer of the dry pizzoccheri pasta, Moro, also makes Gnocchetti – different shape, same enjoyment!