How to Make Pizzoccheri

Pizzoccheri della Valtellina is the famous local dish of Bormio.  Every time I go to Bormio I look forward to trying this simple delicacy.  Indeed, on the last trip, it was as delicious as ever.

So, I’m home now and wanted to see if I could make it.  It’s not hard at all!

Here’s a photo of the Pizzoccheri I had at Ristorante Notte e Di’ in the main square of Bormio.

Now I’m home, I did a little research and I’m ready to get started.

First off, you need to assemble the ingredients.  Pizzoccheri is essentially buckwheat tagliatelle served in a casserole with savoy cabbage, potatoes, sage, butter, and the local cheese from Valtellina.

Here are the ingredients for the pasta.

I’ve got 2 cups of buckwheat flour, 1 cup of normal all-purpose flour, 1 egg, and 1/2 cup of milk.

Adding in the stuff we need for the casserole, …

I added 1/2 stick (4 oz.) butter, 1 head of savoy cabbage (Napa cabbage will do if you can’t get savoy.), 12 creamer potatoes, some sage, and 1/2 pound of cheese.

A word about the cheese: at Latteria in Bormio they told me the “secret” recipe is 3/4 Casera Valtellina and 1/4 Semigrasso.  As far as I can tell, neither cheese is imported into the USA, so I use a 50-50 mixture of Taleggio and Fontina d’Aosta which have good melting properties and taste pretty much the same.

First step is to make the pasta.  Put the buckwheat and all-purpose flour in your Cuisinart, add the egg, and start mixing.  Then add the milk slowly until the pasta comes together.  Adjust the quantity of milk to get the correct consistency of the dough.  Too dry and the pasta will fall apart.  Too wet and it will stick to the pasta machine.

An interesting thing to note is that buckwheat is gluten-free.  That means two things:

  1. If you have friends on a gluten-free diet, you now have a pretty cool recipe you can serve them.
  2. We normally make pasta with glutinous flour.  Gluten helps the dough stick to itself and be elastic.  This dough is a little more difficult to make because it has less gluten than you are used to, so be patient and make sure your dough isn’t too dry.

Once the dough comes together in the Cuisinart, transfer it to a bowl and form it into balls.  Press the balls into flying saucers, wrap them in plastic wrap, and put them in the refrigerator.

Your dough should look like this:

Once the dough has rested in the fridge for about an hour, it will be easier to work with.

Now, slice each piece into wedges.  You might notice from the photo that my dough was a little on the dry side.

Take each wedge and flatten it with your hands.  Roll it through the pasta machine on its widest setting (#1 for mine).  Fold it in thirds and roll it through again.  Repeat a third time.

Now, continue to roll it through the pasta machine, each time on a thinner setting, until you reach the desired thickness (like fettucine you can buy from the store).  On my pasta machine, the correct setting is #5.

Finally, mount the fettucine/tagliatelle attachment and cut the pasta into noodles.  It should look like this.

Now, get a big pot of water boiling and preheat the oven to 375°F or so.

Preparing the casserole ingredients is pretty simple:

  • Cut the cheese into little squares.  (This facilitates melting.)
  • Remove the leaves from the savoy cabbage.  Take the big ones (12 or more, hopefully), slice them up, and remove the ribs.
  • Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces.
  • Mince or chiffonade most of the sage, reserving some for garnish.  Saute the sage in the butter.

OK, here we go.  Put the potatoes in the boiling water.  Add salt.  After a few minutes, add the cabbage and the pasta.  You want all three to be done at the same time.  Homemade pasta cooks in 2-3 minutes, as does the cabbage, so the critical thing to time is the potatoes.

When the pasta, potatoes, and cabbage is done, drain it, put it in a casserole dish, add the cheese, and the butter and sage.  Stir it up and put it in the over for 5-10 minutes to warm it through.

Here’s what mine looked like.

To serve it, just put some in a plate, add some fresh cracked pepper and garnish with a bit of sage.  Here it is, homemade Pizzoccheri.  Just like Bormio.  Yum!

Now go find a 6000′ climb and ride it tomorrow!

Text and photos © 2011 Allan Armstrong

About bikealps

avid cyclist and photographer
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