at some point last year i bought a pack of pizzocheri – a type of pasta made from buckwheat, shaped like tagliatelli. i think i’d seen reference to it a in recipe somewhere but of course i’ve never found that recipe and the packet has sat unopened in my cupboard for many months until this week, when i hit google looking for inspiration.
actually, inspiration was quite limited – every recipe i found was a variation on the same theme, pizzocheri della valtellina – pizzoccheri, potatoes, cabbage, lots of cheese and lots of butter. the cheeses used varied, some of the dishes added to sage and. or garlic to the butter before allowing it to brown and there was amix of dishes cooked solely in one pan, assembled in layers for serving, and others where the layered dish was baked.
i decided to bake mine, cooked the ingredients separately so nothing would be overcooked, used a mix of gruyere and taleggio, chose spinach instead of cabbage and used both garlic and butter, plus a bit of nutmeg.
the resulting dish is rich, creamy but with surprisingly delicate layers of flavour – the pizzocheri has a very distinctive buckwheat flavour which works well with the strong cheeses (the ones i chose both melt beautifully which i loved) and gentle potato flavours. i really liked the spinach in this – i don’t think cabbage would do such a good job at balancing out the richness. and the garlic, nutmeg and sage were just occasional notes in the background.
if you do fancy trying this, have a look at the recipes online – as i said there is a lot of consistency but also a lot of variation, so you’re bound to find something you’ll like. if anyone has any suggestions for using the rest of the packet of pizzoccheri, in a different way, let me know!
pizzoccheri (serves 4)
4 fresh sage leaves
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
225g flat, broad buckwheat noodles (pizzoccheri) or whole wheat noodles
200g baby spinach leaves
a generous grating of nutmeg
200g semi-soft cheese – i used 100g grated gruyere and 100g cubed taleggio
a handful of grated hard cheese – i used a mix of parmesan and gruyere
freshly ground black pepper
a handful of fresh breadcrumbs
preheat the oven to 190c. in a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter with sage and garlic until butter turns nut-brown; be careful not to burn this. remove the sage and set aside.
cook potato until just tender. cook the pasta until just tender (mine too c12 minutes) and just as it is ready add the spinach leaves so they wilt. mix the drained potato, pasta and spinach together then stir in most of the browned butter (keep a couple of tablespoons back) and nutmeg.
in a large oven-proof dish, spread a layer of the pasta mix, then a layer of the semi-soft cheese, then season lightly with pepper. continue this layering until all ingredients are used – i had three layers of pasta with two of cheese. sprinkle the dish with the breadcrumbs and hard cheese, drizzle with the remaining melted butter and bake for about 15 minutes, until the top is golden-brown and cheese has melted. serve hot or warm with a green salad.