Pizzoccheri recipe is typical of Valtellina (particularly of the city of Teglio), a mountain area in Lombardy.
Pizzoccheri is a type of homemade pasta made with buckwheat flour, “00” flour and water. The shape is similar to that of fettuccine, but shorter, about 6 cm (2 1/3 inch).
Buckwheat gives Pizzoccheri their characteristic grayish/brown color.
According to Valtellina tradition, you have to cook pizzoccheri in the same water with the savoy cabbage and potatoes. Then drain directly into a baking pan and make layers, alternating pizzoccheri pasta-cabbage-potatoes with Casera, a PDO cheese from the province of Sondrio (read below how to substitute Casera cheese).
Pizzoccheri should be kept warm in a bain-marie while you prepare the last key ingredient in this recipe: noisette butter with sautéed garlic. Then pour the melted butter over the hot Pizzoccheri.
This is the moment when all the ingredients come together, resulting in the classic Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese: creamy, stringy, incredibly flavorful.
Like every traditional Italian recipe there are small variations related to local customs. We are going to show you the Authentic Pizzoccheri recipe, that is the ancient recipe from Valtellina.
Pizzoccheri is a very rich and flavorful dish. You can serve Pizzoccheri either as a first course or as a main dish. It’s perfect to eat with family or share with friends. Especially good for the winter season.
Try making this appetizing recipe! Follow the steps and our tips to make the best Pizzoccheri recipe you have ever eaten!
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How to Make Pizzoccheri Recipe (Buckwheat Pasta)
- Prep Time: 40 Min
- Cook Time: 20 Min
- Servings: 4
PLEASE NOTE: In this recipe we are going to show you step by step how to make homemade pizzoccheri. It’s super easy don’t worry! If you don’t make Pizzoccheri at home, though, we recommend using 350 grams (about 12 ounces) of Pizzoccheri Pasta. In this case, follow the cooking time indicated on the package.
For Buckwheat Pasta (Pizzoccheri)
- 400 g (3 cups) of buckwheat flour
- 100 g ( 3/4 cup) of “00” flour
- 285 ml (1 1/5 cups) of water
For the Dressing
- 200 g (about 2 sticks) of unsalted butter
- 250 g (about 9 oz) of Valtellina Casera DOP cheese. You can substitute Casera cheese with the following cheeses: Fontina, Piave, Montasio, Branzi, Asiago, Bitto.
- 150 g (1 3/4 cups) of grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 200 g (7 oz) of cabbage. You can substitute cabbage with chard or ribs or green beans
- 250 g (about 9 oz) of potatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic
- freshly ground black pepper
How to Make Homemade Pizzoccheri (Buckwheat Pasta)
Step 1) – First, pour buckwheat flour and white “00” flour into a bowl. Mix them together.
Now slowly pour in the water and incorporate it into the flour. It’s best to use warm water (about 50°C/122°F) because then the starches in the flour will work more easily.
Step 2) – Knead the dough first in the bowl. When it’s well compacted, transfer the dough to a work surface floured with buckwheat flour.
Continue kneading to make a smooth, elastic dough.
Step 3) – Form into a ball and flatten it slightly. Then start rolling out the dough with a rolling pin. You need to roll out the dough to about 3 millimeters (1/10 inch) thick.
PLEASE NOTE: You may want to divide the dough into 2 or 3 parts. This way you will work it more comfortably. In fact, you don’t need a large sheet of dough for this recipe.
Step 4) – With a knife, trim the edges of the rolled out dough. Dust the surface with more buckwheat flour so it will not be sticky.
Now cut strips of dough about 7 cm (2 3/4 inches) wide.
Step 5) – Overlap the strips and cut them widthwise into 1 cm (2/5 inch) wide slices, resulting in Pizzoccheri.
PLEASE NOTE: According to the authentic Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese recipe, they should be 0.5-1 cm (1/5-2/5 inch) wide and 5-7 cm (2- 2 3/4 inch) long.
When you have used up the dough and made all the pizzoccheri, place them on a floured work surface.
How to Make the Seasoning for Pizzoccheri
Step 6) – Place a large pot with about 6 liters (25 cups) of water and 50 g (2 tablespoons) of coarse salt on the heat and bring it to a boil.
While you wait for the water to boil, start preparing the cabbage and potatoes.
Cabbage: flake the cabbage and remove the leaves of the outermost layer. Then cut it in half and then again into smaller strips. Discard the tough central parts of the leaf.
Potatoes: peel the potatoes and cut them into fairly large pieces. Try to get equal sized pieces so that they cook evenly.
Step 7) – When the water boils, put the potatoes in first. After about three minutes, add the cabbage as well and let it boil for about 5 minutes.
Step 8) – After the 5 minutes, add the pizzoccheri. Drop them into the water a little at a time, stirring gently.
Fresh homemade pizzoccheri should cook for about 5 minutes. If, on the other hand, you are using packaged dry pizzoccheri, follow the cooking time recommended on the package.
Meanwhile, slice the cheese. Make fairly thin pieces.
Step 9) – While the pizzoccheri are cooking, prepare the butter with garlic that will be the final seasoning of the dish.
Melt the butter in a frying pan and cut the garlic into fairly thin slices.
Let the garlic sauté in the butter until it turns a hazelnut color. Then discard the garlic and any foam and residue. Keep warm.
Step 10) – Take a baking dish and with the help of a skimmer, drain the pizzoccheri with the cabbage and potatoes. Be careful to drain the water very well.
Form layers by alternating the pizzoccheri with the cabbage and potatoes, sliced Casera cheese (or another cheese of your choice), and grated Parmigiano. Continue until all ingredients run out.
Step 11) – Place the baking pan over the pot with the boiling water used to cook the pizzoccheri. Cover with a tea towel.
With the heat of the water and freshly drained ingredients, the cheese will gently melt.
Step 12) – Finally pour in the hot noisette butter and sprinkle with more grated Parmigiano and pepper to taste.
Pizzoccheri recipe is finally done! The pizzoccheri are ready! Buon appetito.
How to Store Pizzoccheri
You can store pizzoccheri pasta (while uncooked) in a tray covered with a clean dish towel in the refrigerator for 1 day.
If you like, you can freeze them and then cook while still frozen.
Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese should be eaten immediately, as soon as they are ready.
If they should be left over, they can be stored up to 1 day in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap. Then they can be reheated in the oven or in a bain-marie.
We do not recommend freezing.
What is Buckwheat (Grano Saraceno)
Despite its name, buckwheat is not a grain, so it is not a member of the grass family. Buckwheat is an herbaceous plant belonging to the Polygonaceae branch.
In terms of classification, fagopyrum esculentum (this is its scientific name) can only be called a grain in a generic sense. In fact, they often use the term “cereal” for any species whose seeds or fruits can be ground.
Compared to wheat, the most important difference is that buckwheat is completely GLUTEN-FREE.
Buckwheat has its roots in Eastern culture, known as Heidenkorn, literally “grain of the pagans”.
In China, buckwheat consumption has been attested since the early 10th century, while in Europe it did not spread until after the Middle Ages, in the 15th century.
Some speculate that it was the Turks who brought buckwheat to the Balkans.
The name of buckwheat – in Italian “grano saraceno” – refers to the fact that Arab merchants (Saracens) introduced these types of wheat.
Moreover, because this plant has dark grains, it’s also known as “black wheat” or even “wheat of the blacks,” the Saracens precisely.
Buckwheat has spread successfully throughout Russia and Europe, where they grow it mainly in parts of Germany and France.
In northern Italy they use buckwheat a lot. It’s very common in the culinary tradition of mountain areas.
They cultivate it mainly in the provinces of Sondrio and Bolzano. It’s the protagonist of many typical mountain recipes, such as Polenta Taragna or the Pizzoccheri of Valtellina precisely.
What Cheese is Best for Authentic Pizzoccheri Recipe
What we have shown you is the authentic Italian recipe for Pizzoccheri della Valtellina from the Pizzoccheri Academy of Teglio.
This recipe strictly calls for the use of Valtellina Casera DOP cheese.
Casera is a typical cheese from the valley that gives it its name. They make this cheese from semi-skimmed cow’s milk. The cheesemaking technique is typical of mountain pasture cheeses. It’s aged for at least 70 days, after which they brand it. It’s a semi-fat cheese.
Casera is a cheese linked to the territory and you can often find it difficult to find it elsewhere.
Of course you can substitute it with other cheeses. We recommend a cheese with the same characteristics.
It must be a “malga” cheese, that is, a typical mountain cheese made from cow’s milk and semi-fat.
All these types of cheeses, if too aged, are no longer suitable for the Pizzoccheri recipe because they take on too strong a flavor and lose the creaminess needed in this recipe.
Pizzoccheri Recipe: Some Variants
Typical variants of the Sondrio area
As with all traditional recipes, there are some variations on the pizzoccheri recipe.
In the Sondrio area they often use sage instead of garlic to flavor the butter.
In the Alta Valle area they often add a sauté of onion to the recipe.
Pizzoccheri with Chard or Green Beans
This recipe for pizzoccheri is a rich and hearty dish that is particularly suitable for cold winter evenings. In fact, cabbage, which is one of the main ingredients, is a winter vegetable.
But in mountain areas, pizzoccheri are cooked all year round and can certainly be enjoyed even in summer, after a long and tiring walk in the mountains!
During the hot season, you can substitute cabbage with chard or ribs or green beans, again using the steps we have shown you.
Pizzoccheri with Pesteda
If you want to give an extra flavor to your pizzoccheri, then you must try them with a pinch of “pesteda” to sprinkle on top.
Pesteda, which means “pounded,” is a typical seasoning from Grosio, a village in Valtellina.
It’s a beaten, mortar-made mixture of garlic, salt, pepper, dwarf yarrow leaves and thyme. Each family then uses a different recipe for making Pestèda, some adding a dash of wine or grappa, or juniper berries to the basic ingredients.
Pestèda is a flavor enhancer with a strong and decisive taste that they use on many typical Valtellina dishes but especially on Pizzoccheri.
In this way you will combine two recipes from the same land, Valtellina, to have a truly unique flavor that you will not be able to forget!
There are many variations of pizzoccheri in a vegan version. For example, you can replace cheese with a cashew-based cream or with rice or 100% soy cooking cream.
Very interesting is the vegan version with a bechamel made with coconut milk and coconut flour. This béchamel sauce will replace cheese and butter.
Coconut Milk Béchamel:
- 200 ml (3/4 cup) of coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons of coconut flour
In a saucepan, heat the oil, slowly add the flour and coconut milk, mix with a whisk. Then add the nutmeg, season with salt and stir.
The traditional pizzoccheri recipe calls for both buckwheat flour and “00” flour, in a ratio of 4:1, therefore they are not completely gluten-free.
But you can prepare gluten-free pizzoccheri at home using only buckwheat flour. In this case you will have to work the dough longer and more vigorously. We also recommend to use very hot water to be able to work the dough better.
Or you can replace the “00” flour with rice flour in the same amount.
History of Pizzoccheri Pasta
Pizzoccheri pasta, whose main ingredient is buckwheat, has very ancient origins.
As we have seen, the people of Valtellina most likely cultivated buckwheat as early as 1616. It’s therefore thought that the custom of making Pizzoccheri pasta dates back to the introduction of buckwheat in Valtellina.
In the late 1700s, H.L. Lehmann, in his work Die Republik Graubündeni, mentions “Perzockel” as buckwheat and egg noodles.
Moreover, Giuseppe Filippo Massara catalogs among the various plants found during excursions in the province of Sondrio precisely buckwheat, stating that buckwheat was used in those areas to make pizzoccheri.
On the other hand, the etymology of the name “Pizzoccheri” is not very clear, probably from the root “pit” or “piz” meaning small piece, or from the word “pinzare” (to crush), as a reference to the flattened shape of the dough.
Others, however, argue that the word “pinzochera,” used as early as 1300 by both Dante Alighieri and Giovanni Boccaccio, indicates poverty and simplicity, thus referring to a simple dish.
In any case, the most recent sources on pizzoccheri date back to the late 19th century.
The physician Bartolomeo Besta speaks of pasta made with buckwheat. He calls them “tagliatelli bolliti e poi conditi con cacio e burro” (noodles boiled and then seasoned with cheese and butter). Definitely the ancestors of today’s Pizzoccheri.