Comfort food from Lombardy
If Valtellina didn’t exist we’d have to invent it.
Valtellina is unique thanks to its terraces where Sassella and Grumello wines born; a valley that represents a transit point in the Alps and that became Italian only during the Napoleonic time. Valtellina is such a cornerstone for the wine and food specialities thanks to its historical vineyards, almost disappeared production techniques that today become Slow Food Presidia like the Violino di Capra (goat ham) and its cheeses, combative like the personality of the valley’s people, already known even to Grisons.
Removed the decorations, stored the Christmas recipes and with the complicity of the buckwheat and of the cheeses of Valtellina, the month of January is the most suitable to enjoy simple recipes but made unique thanks to the harmonious complexity of the ingredients.
For example, Pizzoccheri (pasta made with buckwheat flour), considered a sort of gastronomic flag of Valtellina: in the city of Teglio in 2002, in fact, the Accademia del Pizzocchero – Pizzocchero’s Accademy – was founded and it recorded and codified the original recipe, proposed in the entire valley, both in little local tavern to awarded restaurant, and even in this issue of our magazine, even if in a little bit simplified version.
The characteristics ingredients of this dish are the buckwheat and the Casera, a cheese produced all year round and which origins date back to 1500, thanks to the farmer custom to bring the milk for processing in collective dairies. The cheese matures for at least 70 days and we prefer this younger version for Pizzoccheri.
The same ingredients tell us a completely different dish: Sciatt, a sort of salty fried pancakes which dialect name reminds a lumpy frog. Sciatt are prepared with small cubes of Casera wrapped in a batter obtained by mixing buckwheat, cold beer, cold water and a drop of grappa.
Better eat the Sciatt just fried, so hot to burns you fingers and let you play with the stringy interior.
Finally, the gnocchi - a type of Italian dumplings – seasoned with saffron and Bagoss cheese. These ingredients are not properly from Valtellina but from Bagolino, a village famous for the production of Bagoss, located at the border with the historical properties of the ancient Republic of Venice. A tribute to the Venetian Carnival: in fact, during the processing of the cheese it is always added some saffron, a golden spice that reminds the stuccos of the Venetian palaces.
How about warming up January, the coldest month of the year, by sharing tastes and aromas in the kitchen?
Anna Maria Pellegrino
Chef e Foodblogger
PIZZOCCHERI FROM VALTELLINA
INGREDIENTS: 200g Casera cheese; 100g grated Grana Padano; 300g buckwheat flour; 100g 00 flour; 10 g butter; 1 egg yolk; 300g Savoy cabbage; 2 medium size potatoes; 2 garlic cloves; salt, black pepper grinded at the moment; q.s. water for the dough (200-250 ml approx)
Mix the sifted flours, a pinch of salt, the yolk and the necessary water in the pastry board or planetary to obtain a compact and smooth dough. Let it rest covered for 30 m.
Meanwhile, clean the Savoy cabbage by removing the outer leaves and the central stick, and cut it in julienne. Peel potatoes, wash them and cut in small cubes. Peel the garlic cloves, slice Casera thinly and grate the Grana Padano.
Boil plenty of salted water, put inside the savoy cabbage and the potatoes, and cook for 20 m.
Now roll out the dough, not too thin, and cut in strips of 5-7 cm long to obtain pizzoccheri, finally add them to the vegetables and continue cooking for another 5 m. Melt the butter in a pot with garlic, and brown it gently.
Drain the pasta and the vegetables and move them in small single tureens, alternating with the cheeses and the flavoured butter.Scent with some grinded black pepper.
INGREDIENTS: 150g buckwheat flour; 150g common wheat flour; 250g Casera cheese; 1 shot glass of grappa, the one you prefer; 250 ml very cold lager beer; 50 ml very cold sparkling water, 10 g salt; black pepper grinded at the moment; seed oil; rocket salad, chicory or radicchio for the service seasoned with a light citronette
Cut the cheese in cubes of about 2x2 or 3x3 cm. Sift and mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Add the beer mixing with a whisk, the grappa and finally the water, obtaining a thick and smooth dough. Meanwhile bring the oil temperature at 170° and mix well the cheese with the dough.
Dip the dough in the hot oil with the help of a couple of teaspoons and cook until browned.
I suggest you to cook not more than 3 or 4 pancakes per time in order not to lower the temperature of the oil too much which would make the pancakes heavy and oily.
Dry the pancakes with blotting paper and serve them on a bed of rocket salad, chicory o radicchio thinly sliced into julienne and season with a light citronette.
GNOCCHI WITH SAFFRON, BAGOSS AND CRESCENZA
INGREDIENTS FOR GNOCCHI: 600g floury potatoes, red or yellow; 150g flour 00, 1 small egg yolk; 3 or 4 pistils of saffron beated in mortar or 1 envelop of saffron dust; 1 spoon of salt
Wash the potatoes and steam them; less water they will absorb and better the final result will be. Mash potatoes with masher directly on the pastry board when they’re still hot and with the peel, add salt, saffron and the sifted flour a little at a time.
At the half of the processing add the little beaten yolk. The secret for a perfect result is a quick process, like for the shortcrust pastry. Model de dough in long sausages of about 2 cm thick and cut in piece of 3 cm.
Shape the pieces of dough with the teeth of a fork, with the specific wooden tool for gnocchi or with the smooth side of the grater. Let them rest and dry on a floured kitchen towel.
Meanwhile brown in a pot some extra virgin olive oil, with crumbled sausage and a few thyme leaves. In another pot melt the chopped Crescenza and the grated Bagoss at low heat to obtain a soft cream. Add the crispy sausage.
Boil gnocchi in plenty of salted water and sautee with the sauce.
Serve immediately with abundant grated black pepper.