This is proper comfort food, a prime example of l’arte di arrangiarsi – the art of making the best of what you have. Created in the Valtellina, one of the valleys of Lombardy just north of Milan, it uses simple local produce: pasta made from grano saraceno, or buckwheat, Bitto cheese, wonderful butter and many vegetables. The pasta itself – a sort of large tagliatelle – used to be made by hand, but it is now possible to buy it dried in packets in good delicatessens.
- 300 g pizzoccheri (made usually with ⅓ Italian ‘00’ flour, ⅔ buckwheat flour)
- 200 g waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
- 200 g Swiss chard, leaves only
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 80 g unsalted butter
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 300 g Bitto or Toma cheese, cut into small cubes
- 100 g parmesan, freshly grated
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7.
Put the pizzoccheri, potatoes and Swiss chard in a large saucepan and cover with lightly salted boiling water. Cook together until soft, about 14 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small frying pan and fry the garlic until cooked but not brown.
Drain the pasta, potatoes and chard and put in a large ovenproof dish. While still warm, mix in the cubes of cheese. Pour over the foaming butter and garlic and sprinkle over the Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then mix together well.
Bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes. Serve hot.
• When sourcing Bitto or Toma cheese for this recipe, look for young, less mature varieties, as these will melt more evenly and provide a richer, creamier flavour than well-aged ones.