Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese

  • by Nonna Box January 4, 2017
  • |
  • Last Updated on November 18, 2022
pizzoccheri alla valtellina

The world of Italian pasta has its superstars, such as spaghetti and linguine, but there are many other intriguing pastas that remain somewhat under the radar and pizzoccheri would definitely fall into this category. Keep reading to find out more about pizzoccheri pasta, including the delicious recipe for pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese, the hearty, delicious dish you’ll be craving with a glass of red wine and a roaring fire this December.

What is Pizzoccheri pasta?

Contrary to its somewhat misleading name, pizzoccheri pasta doesn’t have anything to do with pizza. Instead it is a flat, ribbon pasta comprised primarily of buckwheat flour (which is naturally gluten free), and is typically used as the main ingredient in a hearty winter pasta dish of the same name, pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese.

With nourishing ingredients such as buckwheat flour pasta, butter, potatoes, cubes of Fontina cheese, and savoy cabbage, the dish pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese (which is universally seen as the top pizzoccheri pasta dish!) is known for being pretty easy to make and rich, tasty and very filling. As such, this recipe is the perfect culinary choice to help keep you warm and satiated on a cold winter’s day.

pizzoccheri alla valtellina

Where did pizzoccheri pasta originate?

While there is some debate regarding its exact place of origin, pizzoccheri is commonly believed to be a product of the Valtellina area, which is a small valley located in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy.

Valtellina is famous around the world for its visually impressive mountainside vineyards. The location of the valley, nestled in the shadow of the Italian Alps, has also earned it a reputation as a world-class ski and winter sports mecca.

A calorie-rich dish such as pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese makes perfect sense for this type of location, given it’s the ideal fuel to help you stay energized for your next excursion down the slopes. This is one of the reasons why you’ll frequently see the popular plate served in the local hotels and restaurants in Valtellina.

pizzoccheri pasta on table

The history of this medieval buckwheat pasta dish

In terms of when pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese made its debut in culinary history, the dish was first mentioned in 1550 in the work of Ortensio Lando, a sixteenth-century Milanese writer who listed pizzoccheri in his Catalog of Inventories of Things that May Be Eaten in Italy.

The origin of the word “pizzoccheri” itself is the subject of a variety of theories. According to some, the word pizzoccheri is the product of the word “bizzo,” a dialect word that means “a mouthful.” Others believe that it stems from the word “piz,” which is a local dialect word meaning “a little bit” or “a little piece.” This would be fitting, as the pasta resembles short pieces or strips of tagliatelle pasta, only darker because of the buckwheat flour.

The primary ingredient of pizzoccheri pasta, buckwheat, has been grown in buckwheat fields in the area since at least the early 1600s, making it an appropriate flour choice over regular wheat flour, in light of what was available in the region.

When you consider the other hearty ingredients that comprise pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese as well, for example butter, cheese and potatoes, it only makes sense that a dish like this would emerge from an area where high-calorie but inexpensive fare would be needed to sustain the local population during leaner times and the long, cold winters.

Hearty pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese recipe

It should be noted that pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese is a highly venerated dish in the Valtellina area, so much so that an actual Academy was established in 2002 to ensure the preservation of this time-honored traditional recipe.

The Academy of Pizzoccheri, located in Teglio (the ancient village where pizzoccheri was reportedly first made), has officially registered and codified the recipe for pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese in order to provide strict parameters for how the dish should be made.

For example, you cannot use pasta strips of just any dimension, they need to be around 7 centimeters long and .5 cm wide. In addition, you are not supposed to substitute the particular regional local cheese, Valtellina Casera DOP, because it is the only official cheese that can be used in the recipe.

As you can imagine, many people may not have access to Valtellina Casera DOP or the other specific regional ingredients, so of course a little bit of creative license is allowed if you plan to cook pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese yourself.

Keep reading for a pretty easy and hearty pizzoccheri recipe that can comfortably serve four people.

pizzoccheri alla valtellina

What equipment is needed?

You will not need any special equipment to make pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese from the Valtellina cuisine:

  • pan to sauté the butter and garlic;
  • a pot for cooking the rest of the ingredients;
  • a Pyrex.

What are the ingredients needed to make pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese?

  • Pizzoccheri pasta made from buckwheat flour. You can purchase it packaged or fresh.
  • Valtellina Casera cheese, cubed. Expert Tip: If you live outside of Italy, it’s probably going to be easier for you to find Fontina cheese. Other alternatives that work very well with this recipe include Beaufort, Gruyere, Edam, Emmental, or Gouda. Any cheese with a smoky flavor really gives a wonderful touch of flavor.
  • Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano grated cheese. As with the Valtellina Casera cheese, Grana Padano can be harder to find outside of Italy, but Parmigiano Reggiano is always a quality bet.
  • Butter, we recommend unsalted butter as this is the butter of choice in Italy.
  • Potatoes, peeled and cubed. You can get away with virtually any type of potato, with the possible exception of “new” potatoes.
  • Savoy cabbage, freshly chopped. The most popular pick is savoy cabbage, as that’s what is commonly used in Italy. However, you can substitute with Swiss chard, spinach or even purple cabbage in its place if needed.
  • Garlic, minced. If you don’t like consuming garlic because of digestive issues, you can try substituting chives instead, but be aware that this could significantly alter the flavor of the dish. Another option is to just leave the garlic out entirely or to use a very small quantity.
  • Salt and pepper add to taste. Some cooks forego the salt due to the sodium content of the cheeses, but pepper is a definite must.

Recipes variations

Some recipes call for green beans instead of savoy cabbage to make a slightly different pizzoccheri dish. Other variations include a mix of herbs that are added during cooking. However, these are not considered “official” recipes.

Homemade pizzoccheri noodles recipe

Ingredients

  • 250 grams buckwheat flour
  • 150 grams all purpose flour
  • 200 ml warm water

You can make pizzoccheri noodles from dough you make yourself at home. You will need buckwheat flour, white flour (all purpose flour) and warm water.

Mix the two types of flour in a large bowl, then slowly add the water until the dough starts to form a ball, you might not need to use all the water.

Next, add a generous amount of flour to a flat work surface and place the dough on it before kneading it for at least 15 minutes, or until it becomes smooth and elastic. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and let it rest for 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Now divide the dough in half. Roll it out with a rolling pin until it is just 3 mm thick and cut it into long wide strips. You will then cut the strips into shorter, thinner noodles of 7 centimeters long and .5 cm wide.

As you make the pasta, dust it with flour and loosely pile it on a flat surface without letting it stick together. Cover the noodles with a clean kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out before you are ready to cook them. Your noodles can be cooked in various recipes, including the one below or simpled cooked and served with brown butter and garlic with a dusting of cheese.

Try other baked pasta casseroles:

Pizzoccheri

Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese Recipe

This Italian comfort food is probably one of my favorite recipes. It combines simple ingredients, like pasta noodles, Fontina and vegetables, but the outcome is so delicious that it's hard to beat.
4.63 from 24 votes
Print Pin Rate Save Recipe
Course: Pasta
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 396kcal
Author: Nonna Box

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces Pizzoccheri pasta packaged or fresh
  • 1/4 cup Valtellina Casera DOP cheese cubed (alternatives: Fontina, Beaufort, Gruyere, Edam, Emmental, or Goud)
  • 1/4 cup Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated
  • 1 stick butter unsalted
  • 1 cup potatoes peeled and cubed
  • 1 pound savoy cabbage chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Set a large pot of salted water over medium heat and bring to a boil.
  • Sauté the garlic in the butter in a saucepan on low heat for about 5 minutes (or until soft).
  • Boil the cubed potatoes in the pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes.
  • Without removing the potatoes, add the cabbage to the same pot in which you are boiling the potatoes, and allow it to cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Now add the pizzoccheri buckwheat pasta into that same boiling water with the vegetables, lower the heat just a little, and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes, or until al dente.
  • While your pasta is cooking, go ahead and coat a baking dish with butter, and preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Now drain the potatoes, pasta and cabbage. Fold the cubed Valtellina Casera cheese, Fontina cheese or Gruyere cheese and the sauteed garlic butter into the mixture, adding more butter as needed to ease the mixing process.
  • Pour the entire mixture into the oven-safe dish and top it off with the grated Grana Padana or Parmesan cheese.
  • Put the baking dish in the oven and bake for 10-20 minutes, or until you see that the cheese melts on the top.
  • Remove the dish from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  • Dig in!
Liked this recipe?Follow us NonnaBox for more!

How can pizzoccheri be stored and for how long?

The cooked recipe should be eaten right away and doesn’t reheat very well. If you have made fresh pizzoccheri noodles, they can be kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 1-2 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Do not defrost, but cook them directly in boiling water.

What kind of wine should I pair pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese with?

This dish pairs very well with a red wine that offers a good level of tannin and acidity to help cleanse the palate, such as Rosso di Valtellina or Valtellina Superiore DOCG. Bon appetito!

8 Responses to “Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese”

  1. Terri Teamer says:

    This sounds so good!! I am going to try and make it!!

  2. Leslie Baker says:

    i had the joy of being served this dish in Italy this summer in the Lake Como district. It was made by a retired chef and it was so delicious that I had to have seconds which made eating the rest of his scrumptious meal a bit more difficult. Thank you for this recipe, I will be trying it here in Wisconsin as soon as the weather gets chilly. I did not see the Lombardy box on your website, is it a seasonal box?

  3. Acky says:

    My mom makes this during winter or cold weather and I love how warm and tasty it is… it’s so simple and intriguing but it’s so good. A must try!

  4. Lucy brown says:

    Very informative, i enjoyed reading segment and love recipe. Will try it at home, maybe even here in Menaggio before departure.

  5. Pat says:

    I was recently in the Ardenno area and had this at an ‘agritourismo’ ( dairy farm with restaurant). Can’t wait to try it at home’

  6. Lee Spiro says:

    I had this terrific dish on a ski trip to Sestriere (Turin) and the surrounding region. Nothing in the world tastes better for lunch on a frosty ski day. I’m delighted to find this recipe (although I know the authentic cheeses will be hard to find in the US).

    • Nonna Box says:

      Grazie mille Lee for sharing your story. Pizzoccheri are one of my favorite dishes, and I had the chance to make them here in the US. I was able to find Pizzoccheri and fontina (although the traditional recipe calls for Valtellina Casera cheese).

Leave a Reply