Pizzoccheri, the Comfort Pasta of the Season

by Evan Kleiman
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pizzoc 6The refrigerator is suffering from in-between celebration emptiness. A lonely cabbage sits there with a nice head of garlic, a elderly chunk of fontina and some grated parm. And yet it’s enough to create a world of comfort because I have a package of Pizzoccheri purchased several weeks ago.

Prounounced Peets-OH-keri, they are short tagliatelle shaped noodles made of 80% buckwheat and 20% wheat flours. I bought my bag of Pizzoccheri from Roan Mills at the Farmers Market so they are a bit more rustic (more buck and whole-wheaty) than the traditional pasta. The dish comes from the Valtellina, one of the most northern regions in Italy, a place where they understand the comforting combo of greens and cheese during cold weather.

Think of Pizzoccheri as a super northern version of a pasta al forno or baked pasta, but instead of the ziti with red sauce and mozzarella you have the aforementioned buck-wheaty pasta with cabbage and or green chard , diced potato, (I add caramelized onion) and sage all enriched with fontina and parmesan. It’s a big old cheesy mess of goodness.

You know I love my pressure cooker and here I use it to cook all the veg together with butter creating a tender, rich presence for the pasta. The traditional way is to cook the greens and potatoes along with the pasta. You’ll notice in the pictures that I added some chestnuts. I have some frozen peeled raw chestnuts imported from France that I bought for Thanksgiving stuffing. Since there are some left in the freezer it seemed like they would be a great addition to this dish.

Pizzoccheri

1 onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, sliced
Several fresh sage leaves
1/2 stick Butter, divided
1/4 – 1/2 head of green cabbage, thinly sliced but bigger than slaw
1 bunch green chard well washed and cut into crosswise slices, stem included
1 russet or 2 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ½” dice

Pressure Cooker Method:

Cook the onion, garlic and sage together slowly in half the butter until the onion becomes tender and sweet. Add the remaining cabbage, chard and potatoes to the pan, add ½ cup water and cook under high pressure for 12 minutes. Use a quick release.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until just tender. Drain and toss with remaining butter, cooked vegetables, fontina and parmesan. Settle all into a buttered baking dish and bake at 375° until hot, the cheese is melted and top has golden spots.

Regular Method:

Cook the onion, garlic and sage together slowly in half the butter until the onion becomes tender and sweet. Set aside to mix with other ingredients once done.

Bring a pot of water for pasta to boil. Add salt to taste. Boil the greens and potato until they just start to soften. Add the pasta and cook all together until the pasta and potatoes are tender. Drain and toss in remaining butter with caramelized onion.

Settle all into a buttered baking dish and bake at 375° until hot, the cheese is melted and top has golden spots. 

Evan Kleiman is an active speaker on culinary subjects as well as issues of food culture and sustainability and, just to keep a balance, she has a very public love affair with Pie. She’s been called the Jerry Garcia of cooking with the freewheeling improvisation she brings to the kitchen. You can follow her exploits on her blog at http://www.evankleiman.com/

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