Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese
Ferdzy - Seasonal Ontario Food - December 31, 2014
Here it is; the Italian recipe using homemade buckwheat noodles that I mentioned earlier. All the recipes I found were very consistent, but being me I have made some changes. The main one was to add some carrots. I thought they would fit in well with the flavour profile and add some much-needed colour. I didn't put toasted bread crumbs on top, but our assessment of the dish was that although it was very tasty, the texture was just a tad soft and stodgy, and crisp bread crumbs would add just enough of a different texture. They are not absolutely necessary, however.
The original cheese to use is Valtellina Casera, which you will not find around here. Friulano should make an excellent substitute. All the recipes I saw cooked the garlic with the sage then removed and discarded it, which seems a bit precious to me for what is basically peasant chow. Not to mention that I have put much effort into growing and storing that garlic, and I'm eating it, damn it. I have also streamlined the process a bit; mixing everything together rather than layering it in bowls. Friulano melts pretty quickly, so don't mix it for more than a minute or so, but I do think that mixing it in the pot will give you better melting than just layering the ingredients.
Swiss chard is often used in this dish, but cabbage, kale, or spinach will work just as well, meaning this dish could be made pretty much all year long using whichever green was most seasonal, although I don't really see it as a middle-of-the summer kind of thing. On the other hand, given the last couple of cool, rainy summers; maybe.
2 servings, or 4 servings
20 minutes prep time, assuming the noodles are made
1/2 recipe buckwheat noodles, cut into short pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup coarse, fairly dry bread crumbs
Make the noodles according to the recipe, at least 2 hours before preparing the rest of the dish, and let them sit out on the counter to get a bit dry.
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and toast the crumbs in it until they are lightly browned and quite crisp. Turn them out onto a plate to cool, and set them aside until needed.
Finish the Dish:
1 medium potato (1 cup when diced)
1 medium carrot (1 cup when diced)
1 medium onion
4 cups chopped green or Savoy cabbage, Swiss chard, kale, or spinach
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
100 grams (4 ounces) diced Friulano cheese
30 grams (1 ounce) finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon rubbed dry sage
OR 3 or 4 fresh sage leaves
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
Wash and trim the potato (or peel it if you do that kind of thing), and cut it into 1/2" dice. Peel and trim the carrot, and cut it into slightly smaller dice. Peel and chop the onion. Wash, trim and chop the cabbage or other greens fairly coarsely. Peel and mince the garlic.
When the water comes to a boil, add the carrots and potatoes, and boil them for 8 minutes. Add the buckwheat noodles, and continue cooking for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the noodles are tender.
About 5 minutes after the carrots and potatoes have been started, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. If using fresh sage, fry them briefly in the butter, then remove them - you can save them as a garnish if you like. Add the onion, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cabbage, and mix in well, stirring regularly to keep it cooking down evenly. After 3 or 4 minutes of cooking the cabbage, add the garlic, and the dry sage if that is what you are using. Mix well, and let cook for a few more minutes while the noodles cook. Use this time to dice and grate the cheeses. Mix the grated Parmesan with the prepared bread crumbs.
When the noodles are ready, drain them and return them to the pot over medium-low heat. Quickly mix in the diced Friulano cheese and the vegetables from the skillet. Stir for just a minute, until you see signs the cheese is melting. Turn it at once into a serving dish, or divide it amongst individual dishes, and sprinkle with the Parmesan and bread crumbs. Serve at once.