Pizzoccheri della Valtellina

Pizzoccheri is a Northern Italian dish almost unknown in North America. It originates in Valtellina (known as Valtelline or Val Telline in English), a valley at the very top of Lombardy.

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Despite the name, Pizzoccheri has nothing to do with pizza. It is a first course centered around a special pasta made of buckwheat flour, a type of grain also called Saracen corn (‘grano Saraceno’ in Italian). The recognizable hearty flavor and coarse texture of buckwheat pasta are almost absent from Italian cuisine, but they marry perfectly with potatoes, cabbage, butter and the Valtellina Casera cheese (also indigenous of Valtellina) to make a unique dish.

As detailed by its official website, Valtellina Casera is a medium-ripening, semi-cooked PDO cheese (see the ‘Formaggio Cheese’ post for more information on cheese classification) exclusively produced in Valtellina and made with partly skimmed cow milk. For the preparation of Pizzoccheri, Valtellina Casera is used when just over its minimum aging of 70 days while its flavor is delicate and milky and before it turns more intense.

In Italy, dried buckwheat pasta specifically cut for use in Pizzoccheri can be bought in stores. However, it can also be easily made from scratch without particular equipment.

Pizzoccheri della Valtellina

Yield: 2-3 servings

Total Time: 45 minutes

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Pizzoccheri della Valtellina

Ingredients

     For 200 g of fresh Pizzoccheri noodles

    • 100 g buckwheat flour
    • 50 g white all-purpose flour
    • a pinch of salt

     For the finished dish

    • 200 g fresh Pizzoccheri noodles (the same amount of dried Pizzoccheri can also be used).
    • 250 g potatoes (2 small, diced).
    • 150 g Savoy cabbage (sliced). For a more delicate flavor, it can be replaced or mixed with spinach.
    • 100 g Valtellina Casera cheese (thinly sliced). It can be replaced with other, easier to find, mild semi-cooked cheeses (such as young Fontina, Montasio, Raclette or Gouda).
    • 20 g Parmigiano cheese (grated).
    • 50 g unsalted butter.
    • 3 cloves of garlic (crushed).
    • 2 or 3 leaves of fresh sage (optional).
    • Salt and black pepper.

    Preparation

       For the Pizzoccheri noodles

      1. Mix the buckwheat flour with the white flour and the salt.
      2. Work in about ½ cup of water until an elastic dough is formed. Let it rest for 10 minutes.
      3. Roll the dough into a sheet 2-3 millimeters thick.
      4. Cut the sheet into small rectangles of about 0.5 by 5 cm.
      5. Using a spatula, separate the rectangles from the cutting board.
      6. Place the pieces on a floured plate (sprinkling with more flour before overlapping them).

       For the finished dish

      1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (using ½ tablespoon of salt per liter of water).
      2. Add the potatoes and the cabbage to the boiling water.
      3. Let the vegetables cook for 10 minutes (or only for 5 minutes if using dried pasta).
      4. Toss the (uncooked) pasta into the boiling water and keep cooking for another 5 minutes (or 10 minutes if using dried pasta).
      5. Meanwhile, melt the butter with the garlic and the sage in it; roast until the garlic is golden, then discard both.
      6. Drain the pasta and vegetables mix.
      7. At this point start assembling the dish directly into each individual bowl. To ensure that the cheese will melt, start layering the ingredients alternating some of the pasta and vegetables with a sprinkle of Parmigiano, a few cheese slices and some melted butter. Repeat 2 or 3 times using up all of the ingredients, ending with a layer of pasta and vegetables and a sprinkle of Parmigiano.
      8. Add some black pepper and serve immediately without stirring.

      Notes

      A vegetable mincer can be used to make parallel cuts.

      https://www.disgracesonthemenu.com/2011/01/pizzoccheri-della-valtellina.html

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      17 thoughts on “Pizzoccheri della Valtellina”

      1. I'm cooking them tonight!

        I have some dried pizzocheri from Italy. It would be nice to see on how they compare from the home maden I did in the past. They may help me to refine the recipe. I'll let you know if I figure anything useful out.

        I'm heading to Granville Island to see if I can find some Casera. Did you ever managed to find some in Vancouver? (I usually substitute with Fontina but it tend to have a milder flavour)

      2. When making the noodles from scratch make sure you include the white flour or you'll end up taking all the enamel off your teeth.

        Great recipe! And also good even reheated.

      3. Stefano, I couldn't find Casera in Vancouver, I also usually use Fontina or Raclette – I find that they both work in Pizzoccheri, even though they're a tad too fat.

        Candicus, yes – buckwheat flour can be a bit harsh 🙂 White flour is often mixed in to make it palatable to a bigger audience.

      4. Pizzocheri is an "Eintopf" dish in the sense that it is (mostly) cooked in a single pot. It is one of those very hearty Alpine dishes designed to keep the shepherds warm and well fed using easily available food.

      5. Pizzocheri looks delicious. Honestly, I have not tried eating Italian dish. I like the idea of using vegetable mincer in cutting the pasta. I look forward to tasting Italian dish like this one.

      6. I had the good fortune to stay in Bellagio and spend time with some of the locals who introduced me to this dish. I smuggled in the pasta and the cheese and made this for friends when i returned…several years ago. I recall using two different cheeses. Any idea what the other cheese they would have sold me over there was called? Your recipe is quite authentic. I am going to make the pasta myself next time and try to find the cheese in the Bronx. Thanks!!!

        1. I'm glad you enjoyed this dish – thanks for spreading it to North America! I am not from the valley where this dish originates, so I'll defer to a true local for a better answer. My best guess would be: Casera and maybe "Bitto". Good luck with making the pasta!

      7. Paolo – this was wonderful, and your instructions were perfect! Of course, I used dried pizzoccheri, but it worked wish I could get the local cheese – Fontina was my choice from the alternates you gave. Very easily found in the US. But, now, after a comforting and filling midday meal, I need a nap! Thanks for a new dish for our winter nights!

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