Today, I will once again stray from the Bartolini recipe file and show you how to make another pasta. This one, made with buckwheat, is called pizzoccheri, and originated in the most northern part of the Italian peninsula. I first heard of this pasta, and its namesake dish, from a fellow blogger “MusingMar” when she shared the recipe for this unusual dish last February in her blog, Life Through the Kitchen Window. If you’ve not met Mar, I hope you take a few minutes to visit her WordPress “home”. Similar to my documenting my family’s recipes for future Bartolini, Mar is gathering her recipes as a gift for her children. And what a gift it will be! Her blog features delicious recipes that are well-written, easy to follow, and beautifully photographed. One day, her kids will thank her but, in the meantime, we’re welcome to have a peak and even “borrow” a few.
When Mar posted her recipe for pizzoccheri, she called it “Italian Comfort” — and is it ever! This pasta dish features potatoes and cabbage, with some butter, garlic, and sage thrown in for good measure. Oh! Did I mention the Fontina and Parmesan cheeses? Yes, this is one hearty dish, made even more so by its buckwheat noodles. And this is where I got involved. When Mar posted her recipe, she mentioned that she makes it with regular fettuccine since she’s been unable to find buckwheat noodles. She asked if I could be of help. Well, I love a challenge, so, of course I agreed.
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First, I searched the web and learned that the dish originated along Italy’s border with Switzerland. As Mario Batali is quick to point out, the northern districts of Italy use eggs and “double zero” flour in their pasta dough and, as you travel south, the flour is mixed with semolina and water is used with the eggs. When you get to the very south, the dough can be all semolina with little or no egg used at all. Well, since this pasta came from the extreme north, chances are its dough was all double zero flour and eggs, without any semolina or water used. Knowing that, I began searching the web and weeded out recipes that didn’t seem to have originated in the north. One memorable recipe used Grappa and Vermouth!?!? Seeing that, I decided to go ahead and trust my own instincts.
Based roughly on Mom’s dough recipe, I used a 4 to 1 ratio, meaning 2 cups of buckwheat flour and ½ cup of all-purpose (AP) flour. I also used 3 eggs but the dough was too dry and I had to add some liquid. An egg would have been too much so I added about 2 tbsp of water to the food processor. After it rested for 30 minutes, I treated it like I would any pasta dough and cut the pasta by hand. In all, I ended up with a little over a pound of pizzoccheri pasta. While they cooked up just fine, the pasta broke into small pieces when everything was assembled for the oven and, although the finished dish tasted great, it certainly wasn’t the most appealing thing I’ve ever served myself. Not only that, since I used the entire batch of pizzoccheri pasta in the dish, I had plenty — and I do mean plenty — of pizzoccheri to eat during the following week. As luck would have it, pizzoccheri week was followed by the boiled dinner days of March. One could say that I enjoyed more than my fair share of cabbage during that time period and pizzoccheri was off of the menu for a spell.
Finally, this past Friday I decided to try again. Having spoken with Zia, we agreed that my first attempt failed because it needed more gluten to hold the noodles together and that I rolled the dough too thin. This time around, I used 2 parts buckwheat flour to 1 part AP flour. Again, I only used eggs and the dough handled much better, although still not as easy as regular pasta dough. Once the dough was made, I followed Mar’s recipe and this time the noodles “survived”. This pizzoccheri was not only delicious but it looked great, too. Success!
Today’s recipe is from that final, successful attempt. Although I only made 12 oz. of pasta, you can easily adjust the recipe to make more or less, depending upon your needs. As mentioned above, use a ratio of 2 parts buckwheat flour to one part AP flour and I estimate 1 egg is needed for every 75g of flour. Be aware that buckwheat flour is heavier than AP flour and that’s why I used weight, rather than volume, measurements the second time around. (Where volume measurements are given in the recipe that follows, they are my best
guess approximation.) Your dough will be a little more moist than normal pasta dough but should not be sticky. This dough dries faster than most and the extra moisture will be needed as your roll it out and cut the pasta. Work quickly and do not roll it as thin as you normally would for fettuccine or pappardelle. Additionally, do not allow the sheets to dry as much as you would normal pasta before it’s cut into noodles. If it is too dry, the pizzoccheri dough sheets will become brittle and break as you prepare to cut them by hand or when passing them through your pasta cutters. As complicated as this all may seem, once you start working with the dough, especially if you’ve pasta-making experience, you’ll see what I mean. Really, it’s a little tricky but not nearly as impossible as this may sound.
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How To Make Home-Made Pizzoccheri Pasta
yield: approx 12 oz pasta dough
- 150 g buckwheat flour (about 1¼ cups)
- 75 g AP flour (about ⅔ cup)
- 3 large eggs
- pinch of salt
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until a dough ball forms, usually within about 30 seconds.
- Remove dough and knead on a floured surface for a few minutes. Cover with an overturned bowl or plastic wrap and allow to rest at least 30 minutes and no more than 60. If you must rest dough longer than an hour, refrigerate it until you’re ready to roll it out.
- To roll the dough:
- If using a rolling pin, roll the dough until about twice as thick as you would when making fettuccine.
- If using a stand mixer rolling attachment or hand cranked pasta machine with “1” as the widest setting, pass the dough repeatedly through the rollers, increasing the number setting each time, up to and including the “4” setting.
- If your roller gizmo’s widest setting is “10”, pass the dough repeatedly through the rollers, decreasing the number setting each time, up to and including the “6” setting.
- Allow dough sheets to dry a bit but not as much as you would for normal pasta dough.
- Cut each sheet into 12 inch sections.
- If using stand mixer or hand cranked pasta cutters:
- Pass the sheets individually through the largest pasta cutters, usually fettuccine-sized.
- Place newly cut fettuccine aside on a floured surface and repeat the process for all the dough sheets.
- To cut by hand (see poorly focused pictures below):
- One by one, lightly flour each sheet, fold it in half, then in half again.
- Using a sharp knife or pastry cutter, trim off the 2 ends of the folded dough sheet (sfoglia).
- Cut your noodles. Tagliatelle are no less than ¼ inch (6.4 mm) wide. Fettuccine are no less than ⅓ inch wide (8.4 mm). Pappardelle are no less than ½ inch (12.7 mm) wide.
- Unroll the cut sections to produce the noodles, place the newly cut pasta aside, and repeat the process until all the dough sheets have been cut.
- When finished, cover the noodles with a clean kitchen towel and use ASAP in Mar’s pizzoccheri recipe.
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Now, I realize that this may seem like a difficult process just to make some pasta, especially for the inexperienced pasta maker. As I’ve mentioned, if you’ve made pasta at home, my precautions will make sense and this will probably not seem so difficult. If you haven’t, I’d suggest you start with a regular pasta dough recipe (see Mom’s Pasta Dough) before attempting this one. This dough is not nearly as “forgiving” as normal pasta dough and, as such, is not a good dough to use when learning the ropes of pasta making. Besides, you can always use regular fettuccine or tagliatelle noodles in your pizzoccheri or, if you must have buckwheat, try soba noodles. Don’t let your noodle prevent you from enjoying a great dish!
And thank you, Mar. When all is said and done, I learned both a new recipe and how to make buckwheat pasta. Not a bad outcome.
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