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Italian Alpine Buckwheat Pasta Pizzocheri

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Traditional buckwheat noodles from the Italian Alps with cabbage and Fontina cheese. I made them from scratch with my own freshly milled buckwheat flour. Hard core pasta!

Members of the buckwheat cult love its strong, earthy flavor. A grain that grows on the poorest of soils. Yesterday I milled my own buckwheat flour using my brand-new Austrian flour mill. It took it less than 4 minutes to turn raw buckwheat grains (photo) into fresh flour (photo). 4 minutes before, I thought home-milling was for survivalists and food fakirs, but when I saw the beautiful fresh flour come out of the mill, I was hooked. The one to serve the Kool Aid on home milling was Paul Bertolli, former executive chef of Chez Panisse. Home milling is for gourmets. You can even buy grain mills on Amazon.com nowadays.


Traditional Italian buckwheat pasta
400 gr buckwheat flour
150 gr semolina flour
lukewarm water
150 gr parmesan
200 gr fontina, the sweetest you find
12 sage leaves or 5 cloves garlic
100 gr butter
1 green cabbage

Buckwheat makes a weak flour. There is just no gluten, so if you don't add any extra flour, instead of turning into an elastic paste, your dough will break and tear. Making noodles out of pure buckwheat flour would be like mixing sand with water and expecting to make rubber bands. As per the Italian recipe, I added 150 gr durum wheat semolina to the 450 gr buckwheat flour. You cannot make 'white' flour at home so the semolina was bought. I sifted both flours together to mix them thoroughly and to remove the tiny bits of buckwheat bran that would look ugly on the noodles.

Mix in lukewarm water and knead until you obtain a wet but non-sticky dough. Let it rest for at least 0 minutes so the water will hydrate every last grain.

Bring the dough together in a ball. It looks like wet sand but the most exquisite smell of freshly milled buckwheat. The sobatician would frown if he saw the crevices in my dough. Japanese soba chefs have a way of making dough balls as smooth as a watermelon.

Carefully flatten the dough with a long rolling pin, making sure not to break the dough with a sudden movement. This dough is definitely not elastic and if it breaks, you'll be left with half noodles. A marble or wood bench would be better but I had to make do with stainless steel. It sticks a little even with the semolina flour I sprinkled generously.

Continue to flatten the dough until you reach a thickness of 1.5 to 3 mm, depending on how brave you feel. Thinner noodles are more chic but a hell to work with. My traditional Italian recipes called for 3 mm thick pizzocheri, I find this a bit thick. These are definitely a humble relation of the soba noodles. Indeed, soba chefs use an elaborate two-pins technique to spread the dough in a rectangular shape.

Sprinkle some more flour on the stretched dough and roll it carefully until you have a manageable roll. Here using my impressive Japanese soba knife I cut the pizzocheri in the shape of fettucine. Normally people cut them in 2x6cm rectangles, but here I tried to make them as long as possible.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and immerse the pizzocheri. Boil until cooked through. It took me about 4 minutes but the time very much depends on their thickness. Just taste one every 30 seconds.

When the pasta is cooked through, remove the pizzocheri with a large slotted spoon. Use the same boiling water to boil the cabbage leaves until they are soft, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and cook on a low flame with the sage leaves. Other recipes call for crushed garlic which you let brown in the butter before discarding. Others yet use both.

Assemble the dish in a warm pan or pot. Start wiht a layer of pizzocheri, then cabbage leaves, freshly grated parmesan cheese and little pieces of fontina. Then start again with another layer of pizzocheri and so on until you run out of ingredients.

Pour the melted butter over the pasta. The original recipe called for 500 gr melted butter but I don't think anybody can eat that much fat on top of the 500 gr fontina and 150 gr parmesan in the 21st century.

The dish is excellent but for one who loves the flavor of buckwheat, we are far from the glorification of that flavor offered by soba noodles. Here the point is to use a grain that can grow in the most inhospitable Alpine fields. A variation of this traditional recipe adds boiled potatoes peeld and cut.

I apologize to the reader for having cut my pizzocheri much longer than normal. If it is any consolation to you, some failed to unfold and fused into pizzocheri triple deckers as you can see on the picture above. I recommend you cut them in 2x6cm/1''x2.5'' rectangles.

For this and other handmade pasta recipe using freshly milled flour, have a look at Paul Bertoli's amazing book, Cooking by hand. This American book really changed my way of cooking pasta, and - this ought to tell you something - I have about 3 meters of Italian-language cookbooks.



  • #1
  • Comment by Anna
Bravo!  Beautiful!  I've made soba by hand as well - I use yamaimo (mountain potato) made into liquid to aid in the binding and lessen/eliminate wheat flour.
  • #2
  • Comment by Penny Lane
Oh my God, this looks SO good!  I had bought all the ingredients for Pasta alla Norma but now I think I am going to have to go looking for a cabbage and some fontina so I can make this instead...
  • #3
  • Comment by Penny Lane
Hey!  I made the pizzocheri!  Thanks for an awesome recipe.  Unfortunately my pizzocheri didn't look anywhere near as professional as yours.  Well, they kind of looked like the ones in the second to last picture on this page, probably the ones that fused into triple deckers.  I guess I should have rolled the dough out thinner, but it kept tearing.  Funny how the finished pizzocheri look kind of purplish in colour, isn't it?  And maybe this is because mine were so thick, but the texture was also a little different from regular pasta - not as slippery and a little less chewy.  But a lot of fun to make (and eat) all the same!
  • #4
  • Answered by fx
Thanks a lot for your comments!

Anna, I think the potato is a good idea if you don't want the gluten. How did that work? Did the noodles hold well or tear?

Penny Lane pizzocheri are certainly more work than Pasta alla Norma, congratulations for making them! I think homemade buckwheat pasta is probably the most difficult pasta to make, so if you ended up with a tasty dish it's already a success. The color and texture is indeed wonderful! Thanks for visiting.
  • #5
  • Comment by Joseph Froncioni
What is the brand name of the flour mill in the photo.Thanks.
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
Joseph, my mill is a PK1 made by KoMo in Germany - www.frischmahlen.de . All in beech, a really serious mill and an intriguing and beautiful kitchen appliance. Goes for €280 a pop in Europe, it is imported in the USA as well. There are many fine mills that cost less but few, in my humble opinion, that look better.
  • #7
  • Comment by Eileen
I have made buckwheat lasagne with no wheat flour but using eggs as I am allergic to wheat (strangely, however, I do not react to spelt!). I'm also interested in the use of the potato flour. I don't find the undiluted taste of buckwheat a problem and if you work quickly with a pasta machine in the right atmospheric conditions it doesn't crumble too badly. Wouldn't buckwheat have been used on its own up in the mountains originally before transport made wheat available?
  • #8
  • Comment by debra (
As a celiac I am enjoying(!?) trying new gluten-free pastas.  am looking forward to the buckwheat (I'll have to fiddle a substitute for the semolina, but it's been done before). Your humorous approach to chestnut gnocci has me even MORE inspired, tho.  I'll keep you posted. Thanks for the recipes!
  • #9
  • Comment by Marco Frattaroli
Great visuals one major problem with your recipe the groats (unlike the Japanese version) must be roasted before being milled. It gives it a totally different flavor. Ciao Marco
Enjoyed seeing the wonderful step by step photos and instructions. I will try making these noodles. Currently, I am making wheat gluten  recipes. I try to include photos with my recipes. So far only the bean burger is online.Thanks,Gayle
  • #11
  • Answered by fx
Gayle, thanks for visiting! I love your solar cooking, this is really intriguing! You need bigger pictures though, my eyes are still wanting. Wheat gluten is a really thought-provoking recipe, I had it a couple times deep-fried. Cheers!
  • #12
  • Comment by Peggy Kunsman
Thank you for these wonderful recipes.   I haven't cooked them yet, but I am experienced enough to know they will be excellent.  I can't wait to try the broccoli and pasta.  I think I misspelled that. Can't wait. Thank you.
  • #13
  • Comment by Matteo Soccio
I have looked at your Buckwheat pasta and find it just facinating, my folks came from this part of Italy so I am very interested in accient recipes I am in the process of making a Chitarra (accient pasta maker.Where can I buy a Mill?
  • #14
  • Answered by fx
Peggy thanks for visiting and good luck with the pasta!
  • #15
  • Answered by fx
Matteo, you can buy flour mills on Amazon.com and in various health food / biological food stores across the globe. Do yourself a favor and buy a nice one that will last you a lifetime and then some. You could do the buckwheat pasta from bought ground buckwheat flour of course, but it's so much more magical to grind your own!
Those are some amazing kitchen aids (tools) you have. Pure envy from brussels :)
  • #17
  • Answered by fx
Andreea, no need for envy, start saving and buy the same tools! The cereal mill comes in many sizes, most are really affordable and it is a highly decorative and durable investment.
  • #18
  • Comment by Ross
Francois, I made buckwheat parpadelle this weekend and it turned out great.

I used 50% buckwheat/semolina flour. The cooked texture was just delightful, very firm yet tender.
  • #19
  • Answered by fx
Ross, I am glad to hear your buckwhat papardelle were a success! Next stop - soba noodles. Just joking!
  • #20
  • Comment by Agnieszka
Just tried to make my husband believe that WE really do need this mill. I even checked some ebay prices, looks affordable but how you can make HIM believe WE really need this small yet handsome and usefull piece of equipment?
  • #21
  • Answered by fx
Agnieszka, how you can convince your husband to buy this really depends on what's important to him. If he is a health-conscious person, you'll have no trouble finding out the many health benefits of freshly milled whole flour. If he just cares about the taste, tell him that the taste of freshly milled flours is just incomparable. And if he is of the survivalist persuasion, explain him that if things go Mad Max on us, you'll be the only ones to have proper bread!
  • #22
  • Comment by Nancy
I had this dish this weekend and thought I'd gone to heaven.  It was made by a woman from Northern Italy, Angela, age 80,  who probably didn't use a recipe.  It was, without a doubt, the best thing I've ever eaten.  I'm going to try this now using your recipe.  Hope it turns out as well, but how could it not considering the ingredients?

Thank you!
  • FX's answer→ Nancy I recommend you get a kitchen flour mill to get a really great-tasting freshly milled buckwheat flour!

  • #24
  • Comment by Shari
I loved this article, I love this website - FX Cuisine, and I love the recipes.  They are traditional, inspired, decadent, real, original and fabulous!

I will be using one or more of your recipes in an upcoming practical for a professional culinary program I am currently enrolled in.  I am an excellent cook, but your recipes are exactly the inspiration I need.  Thank you.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Shari, glad my articles help expand your culinary horizon!

I am italian and live part of the year in this region of Pizzoccheri of Lombardia, and I love this plate, the restaurants only have them in late autumn, is a winter food, and is very simple but excellent as a ''primo piatto'', I'have never made at home...should give a tray using your recipe! thank you
  • FX's answer→ Don't go too hard on the butter, this can be a calorie bomb!

  • #28
  • Comment by Emma
There is a reason that you didn't use potatoes and Swiss Chard that are two original ingredients missed in yours? Thank you
  • FX's answer→ Yes, this recipe has many traditional variations using seasonal vegetables. There is no set recipe and I found half a dozens different combinations of vegetables in many days-of-yore cookbooks.

  • #30
  • Comment by anm
Hi Francois, thank you for your book suggestion . I had a friend lug this all the way from US. Read through the book.Beautiful.
  • FX's answer→ Well done!

  • #32
  • Comment by Tom
I've been making pizzocheri for many years, mainly as a way to use the Swiss chard that grows in my garden (actually, I plan on making a batch tomorrow as my daughter has been asking for it).

Till now I've always used bought pasta, but will have to give making it a try.  I'll probably be lazy and use bought buckwheat flour, though I do have a corn mill which should work for grinding it into flour.  

We also normally use buckwheat flour when we make polenta (mixed with various grinds of corn flour).
  • #33
  • Comment by Joel
I absolutely love your site and eagerly await new entries.  I have a question, where did you get your pasta drying rack like in the photo for pizzocheri?  Were they made for you?  I would love to get a set for myself.

You have, hands down, for me, the best cooking blog. Period. Interesting. Incredibly informative. Fun. Original. Superb. I am an artist and I do the shopping and cooking every day. We also do cooking classes. It is my relaxation. You have just made me jump with joy, and look forward to trying some of your discoveries.
Thank you do very much,

Jack Dickerson
  • FX's answer→ Well thank you very much for these kind words!

  • #36
  • Comment by Sandra
My mother is from Teglio,Sondrio, Italy, where this pasta originated.  It is a specialty of the town,located in the Lombardia region.  Today there is even an annual Pizzocheri festival. My mother made these noodles by hand. She did not make them thin. She added savoy cabbage or even green beans.  Then she mixed parmiggiano with fontina. In fact, in Teglio there is a particular cheese that is made in the town. The sauce included lightly sauteed garlic with butter.  These noodles are rich. A small portion is plenty. But what a treat!
  • #37
  • Comment by Lance Bland
Hands down the best cooking web site i have ever found! Im going to order "Cooking by hand". It looks awsome. Keep up the good work.

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