Nearly ten years ago our daughter, Amy, sent me an email with a main dish recipe that included pasta with potatoes and greens and cheese that she wanted me to make for her birthday dinner. I had never heard of combining pasta and potatoes in a casserole. It sounded weird to me, so I was pretty skeptical about trying it.
But, it was for her birthday so I started researching the combination and found that the recipe she sent was inspired by one from the alpine region of northern Italy known as Lombardy. The original dish is called pizzoccheri (pronounced “pit-zo-kery”) and is made with short flat noodles (also called pizzoccheri) made from mostly buckwheat flour and a little all purpose wheat flour. The greens used are Savoy cabbage or kale, and the typical cheese is casera, also from northern Italy. Sage leaves are fried in lots of butter, then everything is layered and baked.
I’m a sucker for ethnic recipes! While I had to make substitutions for ingredients I couldn’t find, I tried to make it as close to the original as possible and we all really loved the dish. I made it a couple of times after that, but then I forgot about it for several years.
A few days ago I remembered that recipe and, when I dug it out of my files, I mentioned to Joe that I thought it would be a good blog post as well as a delicious dinner.
So I made it one night last week with substitutions and tweaks to use what I had on hand, reduce the calories, and shorten the prep time. I peeled the potatos before chopping, but you can just scrub them well to save time. I can’t find the dried authentic pasta here in the Tampa area, so I used whole wheat rotini. I had a bag of baby kale, chard, and spinach from Costco (no need for shredding cabbage!) so I used those instead of savoy cabbage. Boar’s Head Swedish fontina was available at Publix as a substitute for the casera cheese. And instead of layering and baking it, I just stirred it all together and broiled it for a few minutes.
With my changes, you can have a really delicious meal on the table in under 45 minutes.
Serve with sliced tomatoes and a dry white wine.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
- 8 oz baby kale , chard, or spinach, or any combination; or Savoy cabbage, shredded
- 8 oz (1 or 2) red or gold potatoes, peeled or not, cut into 1/2" dice
- 6 oz buckwheat or whole wheat pasta
- 1 tablespoon butter , melted
- 5 oz fontina cheese , shredded
- 1 oz freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a 12" oven-safe skillet and add the garlic; saute until the garlic begins to sizzle.
- Stir in the sage, then add the baby greens or cabbage and season with salt and pepper.
- Saute, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened.
- Turn the heat as low as possible and cover the skillet.
- Put the potatoes in a 3 quart pot, add a teaspoon of salt, and cool water to cover.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer about 5 minutes, or just until the potatoes are tender.
- Scoop the potatoes out of the water with a small sieve and put them into the skillet with the cabbage, leaving the pot of water on the heat.
- Add hot water to the pot, if necessary, and bring back to a boil.
- Stir in the pasta and cook until it's al dente.
- Meanwhile, place an oven shelf 8" below the broiler and preheat the broiler to high.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water, and return the pasta to the pot.
- Stir the melted butter into the pasta, then add the pasta to the skillet with the vegetables.
- Add all the cheese, toss to combine; stir in some of the pasta water if the mixture seems too dry.
- Place the skillet under the pre-heated broiler for 4 or 5 minutes until the cheese is melted.
- Serve immediately.