Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pizzoccheri della Valtellina

On Thursday I cooked one of our favorite recipes: Pizzoccheri della Valtellina. Valtellina is a valley in northern Italy along the border of Switzerland. I'll discuss it again in a future post.

Pizzocheri is an "Eintopf" dish in the sense that it is (mostly) cooked in a single pot. It is one of those very hearty Alpine dishes designed to keep the shepherds warm and well fed using easily available food. The photo above (sorry for the dark quality) is Pizzoccheri we enjoyed at the Croce Bianca Hotel in Poschiavo Switzerland. Everyone has their own recipe, notice the carrots in the photo, but enough talking, here's my recipe, feel free to be creative:


  • 1 pound buckwheat noodles, use flat, wide (1 cm wide), short (6 cm long) noodles for best results;
  • 1/2 pound potatoes;
  • 1 pound mountain cheese (e.g. as strong as you can stand: Appenzeller, Gruyere are great);
  • 4 ounces bacon (spec) diced small;
  • 1 pound onions sliced;
  • 4 cloves garlic (or more if you like);
  • 1 pound spinach;
  • Crushed peppercorns to taste (I use 1-2 ounces);
  • Salt, olive oil;

  1. Place sliced onions, bacon, olive oil in large (12-quart) Dutch oven pan (non-stick best), cook at medium heat stirring frequently, add salt and pepper as you cook;
  2. In another large pot boil about 8 quarts of water;
  3. Peel potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes;
  4. Place potatoes in boiling water, cook for about 5-minutes;
  5. Place buckwheat noodles in boiling water (with potatoes), cook for about 10 more minutes;
  6. While noodles are cooking grate the cheese (note this is a good opportunity to get rid of all your old cheese, use whatever you have on hand);
  7. Taste noodles, when they are almost done add the spinach;
  8. Stir the mixture constantly, taste the noodles and when they are done drain most of the water;
  9. Add the potato-noodle-spinach mixture to the onion-bacon mixture, stir carefully so as to not smush the potatoes too much;
  10. Add the grated cheese to the mixture, again stirring it carefully;
  11. Add a bit of the noodle cooking water to the mixture;
  12. Cover the pan and let it settle for a few minutes;
  13. Serve in pasta bowls.

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