I made this dish on the sly because we had a bag of chard stems in the crisper, and for some reason I thought Jeremy would object to the buckwheat pasta. Must have been because he isn’t quite as enthusiastic about buckwheat in our cinnamon flops as I am.
Anyway, because I didn’t have 3 cups of chard stems, I adjusted the pasta recipe down to 2 eggs, 5/6 C buckwheat flour, 1/3 C AP flour, and 2 tsp each water and milk; the resulting recipe just barely fit into my lovely Le Creuset oval dish. I didn’t peel the red potatoes I used, and the red skin nicely echoed the chard and set off the dark pasta. Actually, it really was a very visually appealing dish; wish I had a photo. I used smoked fontina, because that’s what was available at the store; as it turns out, the smoky flavor combined with the potatoes and buckwheat to make the dish hearty enough that you could imagine there was meat in it.
Counter to my concerns, Jeremy loved this dish so much that he requested an omelet made with the leftovers the next day. Now that I wouldn’t have expected. He tells me it was extremely tasty, though. All in all, this pizzoccheri was totally worth the fussiness of the delicate buckwheat dough, not to mention a good use of chard ribs leftover from another meal.
“Pizzoccheri are short, broad, taupe-colored noodles made principally of soft buckwheat flour. They are a specialty of Valtellina, on the Swiss border, where in cool, Alpine valleys buckwheat grows well. Because buckwheat is so soft, it must be stiffened with some wheat flour, in the proportions given below.
“As you will see when you follow the recipe, the preparation of pizzoccheri has three parts: The pasta is cooked along with potatoes and vegetables, it is then tossed with sage- and garlic-scented butter and topped with sliced, soft cheese, and finally briefly gratineed in the oven.
“The vegetable may be either Savoy cabbage or Swiss chard stalks. My preference is for the Swiss chard…Valtellina’s own tender and savory cheese is not available elsewhere, but an excellent replacement is fontina.”
Homemade pasta dough:
3 large eggs
Approximately 1 1/4 C fine-grained buckwheat flour
1/2 C plus 1 T unbleached flour
1 T water
1/2 tsp salt
3-3.5 C Swiss chard stalks (leafy tops removed), cut into pieces
1 C potatoes, preferably new or red, sliced 1/4″ thick
4 T (1/2 stick) butter
4 large cloves garlic, lightly mashed with a knife handle and peeled
2 dried or 3 fresh sage leaves
1/4 lb imported Italian fontina cheese, sliced into thin slivers
2/3 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pour the buckwheat flour and the unbleached flour onto a work surface and mix them well. Shape the flour into a mound with a hollow in the center, put the eggs, milk, water, and salt into the hollow, and combine slowly with the flour, working into a kneadable dough.
Knead thoroughly and roll out via machine or by hand, keeping it somewhat thicker than for fettuccine. Let it dry for 2 or more minutes until it is no longer so moist that it will stick to itself when folded, but without letting it get so dry as to crack.
Loosely fold the strips into a loose flat roll as you would for cutting tagiatelle, and cut into 1″-wide ribbons, cutting each in the middle to obtain diamond shaped noodles 1″ wide and 3″ long. Unfold the noodles and spread them on a counter lined with clean, dry cloth towels.
Preheat oven to 400F. Wash the cut-up Swiss chard stalks in cold water. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, add 2 T salt, and as soon as the water resumes boiling, put in the chard. When the chard has cooked for 10 minutes, put in the potatoes, setting the lid slightly askew.
While the potatoes and chard cook, put 4 T butter and the garlic in a small skillet and turn to medium heat. Cook until the garlic becomes colored a light nut brown, discard it, and put in the sage. Turn once or twice, then remove the pan from the heat.
Thinly smear the baking dish with butter. When both the chard and potatoes are tender when prodded with a fork, drop the pasta in the same pot. Cook the pasta until slightly underdone, very firm to the bite, molto a dente. If fresh, this will take just a few seconds. Drain immediately with the chard and potatoes, and transfer to the baking dish.
Over the pasta pour the sage and garlic butter, tossing thoroughly to coat the noodles. Add the sliced fontina and grated Parmesan, mixing them into the pasta and vegetables. Level off the contents fo the dish and place on the uppermost rack of the preheated oven. Remove after 5 minutes, allow to settle for another 2-3 minutes, then serve at table directly from the dish.
Source: Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.
Update 4/28/14: I think this pasta could be adapted pretty easily into a gluten-free version. More on this when I give it a shot myself.