On a recent trip to the supermarket I came across buckwheat pasta, which got me thinking about a fantastic winter dish I first tried back in the days when, as an Italian teacher, I organised a yearly exchange visit to Lake Como in Italy. The lady who dealt with the Italian side of the exchange was a truly inspirational teacher and a lovely host, who – luckily for me – was always eager to share her knowledge of the local cuisine. Pizzoccheri alla valtellinese, which this recipe is based on, was just one of the many delicious dishes she introduced me to in that beautiful corner of Italy.
Pizzoccheri is the name of the strips of buckwheat pasta traditionally used in pizzoccheri alla valtellinese, but since you might struggle to find this ingredient outside Italy, I’ve gone for buckwheat penne instead. The addition of taleggio is also not entirely authentic but I’ve included it because Valtellina Casera, one of the cheeses used in the classic version of the dish, isn’t widely available in this country either. I’m sure you’ll agree that, with its oozy melting properties and mellow flavour, taleggio is a tasty substitute. The wholesome pasta and tangy mountain cheese marry perfectly with the other ingredients in the recipe, which include potatoes, savoy cabbage and sage.
Both vegetarian and gluten-free, this meal is a great all-rounder. For a meaty variation, try scattering over some fried pancetta cubes before you put the dish in the oven.