Buckwheat pasta casserole – pizzoccheri

I love anything buckwheat, it’s a flavor I was introduced to as a child.  My parents used to make us buckwheat pancakes on weekends, and sometimes buckwheat waffles for dinner with sausage gravy.  We had an outdoor dog who never came inside, but I remember handing buckwheat waffles and pancakes out the floor-level window sill to her – she would gobble them up as quickly as we did!

So when I heard about pizzoccheri, I knew that I’d have to try it sometime this month.  Pizzoccheri is the name for a buckwheat pasta made in the Lombardy region of Italy (northern Italy, bordering Switzerland). It is also the name of a traditional dish, where buckwheat pappardelle are cooked with cabbage and potatoes, then layered with Fontina and Parmesan cheeses and baked.

The dish is usually flavored with sage, but I used thyme since I had some on hand, I think rosemary would have worked well too.  Another recipe included bacon, but I decided this was carb-heavy enough without adding more fat too :)  It’s an unusual combination, but a really enjoyable one. I can see why this is a comfort food from that region of Italy, and may become one of mine as well!

I followed a recipe published in the New York Times in 2008; http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/31/dining/311mrex.html

You can make it with wheat pasta, but it just wouldn’t be the same.  To make the buckwheat pasta from scratch, I followed a Lidia Bastianich recipe;
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. buckwheat flour
1 egg
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. water

Mix in a food processor until it makes a ball of dough. Knead on a floured board until a stiff but pliable consistency. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest about 30 minutes, then roll out through a pasta machine and cut into wide ribbons. Pappardelle are extra-wide (about 1-inch wide) noodles, but for this recipe they don’t have to be exact at all since they get mixed in with everything else in the casserole.

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