Sunday, February 17, 2013

Valtellina Pizzoccheri

When I was young my family spent two different occasions in Sils-Maria, Switzerland at the Hotel Privata. My sister and I only were there in the winter but my parents have returned several times.  Sils-Maria is this beautiful small town nestled in the Engadin valley of Switzerland. It was cold but crisp when we were there and the hotel provided us breakfast and dinner along with our room.  We got to know the owners pretty well and I raved about the food after our vacations were over.  I just loved everything but my favorite was always the pizzoccheri.  I begged for this dish to be on the menu when we were there and it was surprisingly there both times.

Pizzoccheri refers to buckwheat noodles. At the hotel, the owners made their own noodles from scratch and mixed them with whatever vegetables were available and a healthy dosage of cheese.  This Northern Italian comfort dish is not to be missed! Well, actually if you talk to my husband you could pass on it but I really like it. I love making my own noodles and mixing them with the cheese and vegetables and sage butter.  For those not fans of vegetables you could set aside some pasta and cheese and butter and heat that separately into a delicious and creamy mac & cheese.

Valtellina Pizzoccheri
Serves 8 as a main course

For the Buckwheat Noodles:
*I couldn't find buckwheat flour anywhere which was sort of sad so I made noodles with a few different flours but I still missed the buckwheat
100g all purpose flour
200g semonila flour
200g whole wheat flour
(or 300 g all purpose flour + 200g buckwheat flour)
2 eggs
pinch of salt
4-5oz water

In a bowl stir together flour, eggs and salt.  Add water a little at a time until the dough forms together in a firm dough ball. Let sit 2-3 hours in the bowl covered with plastic wrap.

Roll pasta dough out on a floured surface as thin as you can. Cut into long noodles about 1cm wide or the width of a metal skewer. Separate noodles and set them aside until ready to cook.

Other Ingredients:
1 lb potatoes, cubed
1/2 lb Swiss chard, cut into 1 inch pieces, stems cut into small pieces but separate
1/2 lb spinach
8 oz Fontina cheese, grated
4 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
4 oz Mozzarella cheese, grated
black pepper
2 T butter
10 sage leaves
4 cloves garlic, sliced

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add salt and potatoes and boil about 7-8 minutes until fork tender.  Add Swiss chard stems in the last minute of cooking. Remove potatoes and stems to drain but don't dump the water!
2. Add Swiss chard and spinach leaves to a steamer basket and steam, covered 2-3 minutes over same water (turn down the temp when you put the lid on). Set aside
3. Bring water back to a boil and add pasta with some more salt.  Cook pasta 3-4 minutes until it resembles pasta.  If you are using buckwheat noodles this could take a little longer. If you are using dried buckwheat pasta this could take up to 17 minutes. Drain pasta, you are free to get rid of the water.
4. In a heavy bottomed skillet brown butter with sage and garlic about 2-3 minutes over medium heat.
5. Preheat the oven to 450
6. In a large casserole dish layer pasta, vegetables and cheese along with salt & pepper to taste.  Pour garlic/sage/butter mixture over the top.
7.  Bake 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and serve warm.   This is delicious with a simple salad on the side.

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