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Pizzoccheri al Forno

A satisfying casserole from Valtellina in northern Italy, near the Swiss border, pizzoccheri al forno is woodsy, rustic, and dying for an elegant Nebbiolo.

4 to 6 main dish portions or about 8 side dish portions


About 2 hours


If one dish declares winter in the Italian Alps, it is pizzoccheri al forno, a tousle of fresh buckwheat pasta and white cabbage bathed in butter, black pepper, garlic, and sage and baked until lethally bubbly in a haze of Italian fontina. Buckwheat shares an affinity for each of these ingredients, and together they warm to near virtuosic levels. Recipes for this dish often include diced potatoes, but we don't think their addition improves things. Savoy cabbage makes a pretty substitution for green cabbage, but we were surprised to find that we prefer the sweetness and texture of green cabbage.

Cooking Remarks

Make the noodles a day in advance if you like, but do not cook them until just before you assemble and bake the casserole.

equipment mise en place

For this recipe you will need a 2½- to 3-quart gratin dish, aluminum foil, a large pot for cooking the pasta, a pair of tongs, a colander, a large skillet, and a wooden spoon.

    • 2
      ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, plus additional for the gratin dish and foil
    • 1
      tablespoon table salt, for the pasta cooking water
    • 1
      recipe Pizzoccheri (Italian Buckwheat Pasta), prepared and cut but uncooked
    • ¼
      cup sliced garlic cloves (about 8 cloves)
    • 1
      smallish head green cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped (about 10 cups)
    • ¼
      cup small whole sage leaves, stemmed
    • 1
      teaspoon fine sea salt
    • ½
      teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 6
      ounces Italian fontina cheese, cut into small dice (about 1½ cups)
    • ¼
      cup heavy cream
    • 3
      tablespoons minced fresh chives or chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

    Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 2½- to 3-quart gratin dish and a piece of aluminum foil that will serve to cover the dish. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.


    When the water boils, add the table salt. Gently lower the pasta into the water, taking care not to break the strands. After about 10 seconds, gently stir with tongs. As soon as the water returns to a boil, lower the heat to medium-high and cover the pot partially. Cook the pasta to extreme al dente, or just past a hard, starchy center, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain in a colander, and then set the colander with the pasta in a large bowl of cold water to cool, taking care not to break the pasta. Lift out the colander, let the water drain off, and set aside.


    Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it foams. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, stirring all the while, about 20 seconds. Stir in the cabbage and sauté until softened and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the sage and season with the sea salt and pepper. Stir to combine, and then remove the skillet from the heat.


    Layer the pasta, followed by the cabbage mixture, and finally the fontina into the buttered gratin dish. Combine the chicken stock and cream and pour the mixture over the casserole. Cover with the foil, buttered side down, and bake until the casserole is bubbly and hot throughout, about 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with the chives or parsley, and serve.