The weather was turning nasty yet again, and I was feeling like something cozy and hearty for dinner. I was thinking about a pasta dish with some vitamins/vegetables. Pizzoccheri came to mind, which is a dish from the Valtellina in Northern Italy. It is a typical dish served in the mountains, usually during a day of skiing or outdoor labor. It is rich and tasty, made with buckwheat noodles, bitter greens (usually swiss chard), fontina, and sometimes potatoes. Perfect for a dinner for 2 after a day at the office, right? Anyway, the idea popped into my head and I couldn’t shake it. I didn’t follow a recipe, but made one up as I went along, working off of memory and taste. Tracking down buckwheat noodles at the last minute, was not going to happen, so I used fresh whole wheat fettucine (store-bought), and for the greens, I chose organic kale (I reasoned that the power of the pasta would overcome Hubs’s revulsion to kale). I also bought some fontina to shred into the mix.
The end result was a tasty, gooey pasta dish that warmed the bones. Not quite the traditional recipe, but worth repeating for sure. For more details on the real pizzoccheri deal, you can also check out Mark Bittman’s NY Times article here.
My Pizzoccheri-like Pasta
3 or 4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound fresh whole wheat pasta, preferably fettucine, or other long flat noodle
1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed and shredded
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
Red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
In large pan, saute onion in about 2 tablespoons olive oil until softened. Add garlic and continue to saute. Do not brown. Add kale in handfuls and saute until wilted. Add additional 1-2 tablespoons olive oil if kale mixture appears dry. Season with salt and pepper, and red chili pepper flakes (if using). Once kale is wilted, set aside.
Bring large pot of water to boil and prepare pasta according to directions. Fresh pasta only takes 2-3 minutes to cook, so I do recommend preparing the kale mixture in advance, or at least while the water is coming to a boil. Once noodles are al dente, re-heat kale mixture on a low heat, and use slotted spoon to remove from boiling water and add directly to kale mixture. Pasta should have some water on it (no need to drain), that will help loosen up the kale mixture (which is your pasta sauce). Incorporate pasta with kale mixture for a minute or two, over low flame and sprinkle fontina cheese on top. Serve immediately in bowls with additional cheese for sprinkling. Enjoy!
Yield: 2 servings