15 January 2013

Recipe test: Pizzoccheri Gratin from Food & Wine

I'm sorry I keep picking on you, Food & Wine.  I really do love you.  This recipe worked out pretty well, but it could use a little help.

Photo from Food & Wine Magazine.

I decided to make the Pizzoccheri Gratin from the December 2012 Food & Wine issue because it sounded like such an interesting geographical mixture: cabbage, potato, poppy and caraway seeds from German food, pasta and cheese from Italian.  Food & Wine tells me that it is a traditional Northern Italian dish.  It is linked at the beginning of this paragraph for your reference.

This is pure comfort food, and that's all I expected from it.  It wan't bad, you know, but it was a little dry and the pasta just didn't seem incorporated into the dish.  I also made a couple changes--I had provolone and mozzarella on hand, so I used that instead of fontina and Parmesan.  Parmesan probably would have added a nice nuttiness to the flavor, but these cheeses were pleasant, I thought. I also added some sauteed onion and garlic because I thought it needed it, and I am not sorry I did that.

I think there is more pasta than necessary here--I mixed the ingredients well, but still ended up with some very pasta-heavy, dry bites.  But I think it's a nice dish to make, so I would suggest doing it with these changes:

  • Use 8-10 oz. or pasta, maximum.
  • Add another vegetable for some flavor and variety: perhaps mushrooms, carrots, or broccoli.
  • Use salt!  There's no salt anywhere in this recipe.  Use it in the cooking water and later to season. Use black pepper, too. Just stir both in to the mixture before topping with breadcrumbs and remaining cheese.
  • Stir in a little milk or cream to hold things together--1/2 cup would do just fine.  
  • Cook the pasta most of the way, but leave it just a little too firm to eat.  This way it won't get too mushy in the dish with the addition of milk.  
  • Add onion and garlic.  What savory dish isn't better with these in it?!

Anyone out there who tries it, feel free to add your recommendations in the comments section!

**Update: just reheated these dry-assed leftovers and stirred in some cottage cheese and diced dill pickles--perfection.