Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Hills Are Alive, With the "Sound" of Pizzoccheri

OK, maybe Pizzoccheri Pasta doesn't really make a "sound"... but I am sure that the reason Maria was spinning around on a Alpine mountain top like an escaped mental patient was not because of any music. Oh No! I think she had just had a big heaping bowl of Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinesi and was in a food induced ecstatic state, as well as tryin to burn off a few calories.

This is a delightfully rich and hearty dish of the Italian Alps (Yes, I know Maria was Austrian... Just let me run with this) comprised of a Buckwheat pasta about the width of tagliatelle which is combined with Potato and Savoy Cabbage all layerd with Bitto cheese and drenched in Saged Browned butter... It is Alpine comfort food at its finest. Especially on a cold winter night.

I have found, though, that I have to make pizzoccheri pasta myself, cause I have never been able to find it it the store. Even the pasta shop in Little Italy doesn't make it because it is a very delicate pasta with a low gluten content and it too problematic for them to make. My other issue is that I can never find Bitto or Valtellina Casera cheese. Instead, I use a combination of Italian Fontina (Not Danish) and Grana Padano or Parmegiano-Reggiano. Italian Fontina is an Alpine cheese, and I am sure most other Alpine type cheeses would work just as well.

I guess I should quit jabbering and start making the pasta.... Cause this is all gonna take awhile (I usually make the pasta dough the night before as it will keep overnight.)

Pizzoccheri (peetz-oh-CARE-ee)

2 1/4 cups Buckwheat flour
3/4 cup AP Flour
1/2 Cup Semolina
a pinch or two of salt
4 large eggs
1 TB Olive oil
3 TB Warm water

In a medium bowl, whisk together the Buckwheat, Semolina, AP Flour and Salt.

Pour onto a large board and make a well in the center.

Add eggs, oil and water into the well and begin stirring with your fingers.

This will slowly incorporate the flour mixture and create a slurry.

Slowly the dough will begin to come together.

Knead until smooth. (If the dough is REALLY stiff add up to 1 more TB of water)

Divide dough into 4 balls.

Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Flour your board and remove a dough ball, squaring it up a little to facilitate even rolling.

and roll with a pin to about 1/16 inch thick. (I have not tried this with a pasta roller)

Trim up the edges a little for pasta to be straight.

Use a pizza cutter to cut strips 1/2 inch thick.

Lay out on a floured baking sheet, while repeating with remaining pasta dough.

Cover with plastic and refrigerate or continue below....

Pizzoccheri continues..............
OK, so NOW, that we have the proper pasta, it is time to embark upon the quest for the cheesy buckwheaty goodness that is Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinesi.

This may still be of some difficulty, as some of the remaining ingredients are also a little difficult to come by... As stated earlier, I use a combination of Fontina and Grana Padano...
Fontina causes some confusion, since there are 3 different versions available on the market. I use an Aged Italian Fontina or more appropriately referred to as Fontina Val d'Aosta.

With the dark brown rind, aged and very pungent smelling with a sweet mushroomy flavor, which is perfect with Buckwheat.(although I am sure actual Bitto would be better)

The Danish version (in the red wax)

is way to soft and creamy to stand up to this hearty dish, although that is what most of us are use to seeing in the dairy case. Look for an Alpine style cheese that is sweet but earthy and mushroomy, as a suitable replacements. Gruyere comes to mind.

Savoy cabbage can also be difficult to find, in fact, I have been looking for it for a year!! It was because I found a savoy cabbage, finally, that I decided to make this dish again.

The last time I made this dish I substituted Napa Cabbage for the Savoy. (the savoy cabbage was SO much better)

OK, now that everything is amassed... Fontina Val d'Aosta, Savoy Cabbage, Pizzoccheri, Red Potatoes, Leeks..... Lets get to cookin cause I am starving...

16 oz Pizzoccheri
12 oz Savoy or Napa Cabbage
3 medium Red potatoes (traditionally peeled, but I leave the peels on for color)
1 Leek, sliced thinly, white part only; Divided
7 Sage leaves
1/2 cup butter (1 cube)
5 oz Fontina Val d'Aosta
3 oz Grana Padano or Parmegiano-Reggiano
Salt and Pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Cube the potatoes into some cold water to keep them from browning.

Remove core from cabbage and shred with a knife.

Slice up the leeks and divide.

Salt water liberally and add cabbage, potatoes and 1/2 of the leek.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the sage leaves and the remaining leek.

Shred the Fontina and Parmegiano-Reggiano (if you have Bitto, slice it really thin instead)

Watch the butter closely, you need to cook it until it is hazelnut brown (noisette) but don't burn it.

When the cabbage starts to soften, add the pizzoccheri and cook for 10 minutes. (If you are using dried pasta is till need to cook about 15 minutes so add it when the cabbage becomes bright green, but not yet softening)

When the butter is nut brown, remove from stove and move to a container you can pour from easily, like a glass measuring cup (This will stop the cooking so the butter doesn't get any more brown.
Fish out the sage leaves.
Using a skimmer, remove 1 1/2 skimmers full of the pasta/cabbage/leek/potato and let drain for a few second,

then move to a warm pasta bowl.

Add a 1/3 of the Fontina cheese and a 1/3 of Parmagiano.

Drizzle with browned Sage butter

Add another skimmer full of the pasta mixture, half of the remaining Fontina, half of the remaining Parmagiano, then drizzle of sage/leek butter.
Repeat 1 more time. (you should end up with 3 layers)
Then pour the Sage butter over the top, sprinkling the crispy leeks over the whole thing.

Mangia!!! And I DO mean MANGIA!!!


Dajana said...

I completely agree with your choice of cheese. Many dishes have the tag "valtelinesi" for this precise reason - they use fontina made in Valtelina.
Complimenti... another hit, Shane

Michele said...

I've never had this dish! Where did you first have it or learn of it? The pasta looks so pretty!

Bob said...

Oh my. That looks mad good, I bet the pasta is something else.

Shane T. Wingerd said...

Dajana - Thank you! ;)

Michele - I was first exposed to Buckwheat pasta in Portland, although I think it was a buckwheat Fettuccine from a "Health Food Store" not actually Pizzoccheri. But it was really because of the Bitto cheese (yet again, sampled in Portland) that I learned of alla Valtellinesi... Then it became an obsession, as so many things do with me. ;) LOL

Bob - Thanks, it is interesting at first, cause the texture of the pasta is less "toothy" than Semolina or Egg pastas... It's definately a winter dish though.

robertopotito said...

you can make pizzoccheri much better than italians!!!

Spryte said...

I'm pretty certain I will never try to make this... but I would happily eat it!!