Pizzoccheri: Italy’s debated buckwheat pasta recipe

Key takeaways: 

  • In the Valtellina valley, buckwheat development – alongside its unique pasta dish – is a centuries-old practice. In any case, what’s thought of as the “genuine” recipe is begging to be proven wrong.
  • Chiara Lanzarotti recalls when “everybody was a rancher” in the modest community of Teglio.

“It’s similar to a postcard,” Lanzarotti said, directing her stick toward the south side of Italy’s Valtellina valley, encompassed by the Orobie Alps, which are snow-dotted, even in mid-July.

Lanzarote’s maternal progenitors, the Tusetti’s, got comfortable Teglio on Valtellina’s north side – 16km south of the Italian-Swiss boundary in Lombardy and 900m above ocean level – during the 1600s and developed buckwheat, a conventional food staple for ranchers tending their terraced mountain crops.

Flour ground from the plant’s three-sided seeds, Grano Saraceno in Italian, or furmentùn in Valtellina’s vernacular, was fundamental to an excellent tagliatelle-style pasta dish called pizzoccheri, which was finished off with vegetables like cabbage and potatoes, as well as cheddar and spread, which fuelled them from sunrise to sunset.

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While it’s difficult to tell when the dish was first made, in the 1799 book Die Republik Graubündent (The Republic of Graubünden), German history specialist Heinrich L Lehmann expounded on a “personnel” mixture produced using buckwheat flour and egg, which was cooked in water and presented with spread and ground cheddar. Lehmann noticed that ranchers in little homes would likewise utilize this equivalent mixture to make a less complex gnocchi dish as they didn’t necessarily have the advantage of time or space to roll and cut the batter into level tagliatelle noodles.

Toward the finish of the 1800s, there were 5,000 sections of land buckwheat developed in Valtellina. Today, just 50 areas of land are cultivated, essentially in Teglio. Buckwheat’s creation declined with the ascent of industrialization during the 1950s. It was supplanted by additional rewarding yields like wheat, which was filled in for a portion of the buckwheat flour utilized for making pizzoccheri.

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