The pasta dish pizzoccheri hails from the town of Valtellina in the Lombardy region of Italy, which shares borders with Switzerland. The alpine region has cold winters, but hardy vegetables — like potatoes and cabbage — survive them. Thus, this simple dish incorporates both, along with butter and cheese for surprisingly delicious results. Yes, potatoes and pasta really do work well together — just try it and see!
The traditional pasta used for this dish is made with mostly buckwheat flour, giving it a greyish cast and subtly nutty, earthy flavor. Traditionally, it’s made fresh and flattened to large, rustic strands similar to tagliatelle, or it can be made into flat-shaped pieces.
Today, dried pastas made with flavorful whole grains such as farro or whole wheat serve as good substitutes if buckwheat pasta is difficult to find (or make at home). Another alternative might be trying it out with soba noodles, which are much thinner, but also made with buckwheat.
Pasta and Potatoes with Cabbage (Pizzoccheri)
1/2 pound red potatoes
8 ounces dry, shaped pasta (preferably buckwheat or whole wheat)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small- to medium-sized (or 2 baby heads) green cabbage, cored and shredded
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup grated Grana Padano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cool water. Add a teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and leave the pot of water on the stove. (Alternatively, you can use leftover cooked potatoes in this recipe.)
Add water to the pot, if necessary, and bring it back to a boil. Stir in the pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente. Scoop out about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside, then drain the pasta.
Meanwhile, heat a very large, wide pan with the olive oil and garlic and cook until the garlic begins to sizzle. Add the cabbage and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until cabbage is softened.
Transfer the potatoes and pasta to the pan of cabbage along with the 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Stir in the butter and cheese, toss to combine thoroughly, and taste. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Toss again, and serve immediately.