I have been thinking of writing this recipe for quite some time, but couldn’t get myself to sit down and do it. This is another interesting speciment of the Swiss cuisine. Contrary to the Wurstsalat I published a few months ago, Älplermagronen is served as main dish and quite often in the small restaurants that you can find up in the Alps or around. Its name means anyway Alp Pasta.
It is a pasta based gratin and although it looks heavy, it is less than its equivalent ones, as it does not contain heavy cream, but semi-skimmed milk! On the drawbacks, it does take a little bit of time to cook it, but the taste totally rewards the effort!
For 4 big portions, the ingredients needed are:
- 2 spoons butter for frying
- 500 g onions in slices
- 1/2 dl white wine
- 1/2 dl meat broth
- 200g fast cooking potatoes
- 500g pasta (Älplermagronen)
- 1 lt Milk (any type you like)
- 3/4 ts Salt
- grated Gruyère cheese
- 150 g bacon in slices
It is better to start with the onions. Add the butter in a frying pan and once it is hot, add the sliced onions. Reduce the heat to medium and let them fry until light brown for about 30 min. Then add white wine and meat broth, let reach boiling point and mix until all humidity is gone. Put it aside for later.
In the meanwhile prepare the pasta. In Switzerland they use the appropriate type of pasta, called (surprise, surprise)
Älpler Μagronen. They are egg pasta, thicker and shorter than spaghetti, but thinner than penne. Unfortunately, I am not sure you can find exactly these ones anywhere else but here. Nevertheless, you can use another type of pasta, as long as it is not too small. Penne or fusilli could be a replacement, but not good enough for Swiss people, so don’t tell them.
Traditionally, pasta was being mixed with potatoes, as the latter were cheaper and in abudance. If you check other recipes of
Älplermagronen you will find higher portions of potatoes than pasta. But potatoes and pasta do not have the same cooking time. This is important, because if potatoes are in too big pieces, they will not cook in the time that pasta needs. It is a common mistake to have hard pieces of potatoes among the pasta. As a result, in my own version, I have reduced the quantity of fast-cooking potatoes vs pasta, and I pay attention to cut them in really small cubes. It takes a bit more time, I know, but who wants to eat half cooked potatoes?
So back to the preparation, cut the potatoes in small cubes, add them to a big pot together with the pasta, the milk and a bit of salt and let everything cook while mixing, until the pasta is al dente. This is the secret of Älplermagronen: the pasta is cooked in milk. You can use any normal milk you have at home. I use half-skimmed milk and it works perfectly. It is important that the liquid is mostly covering the potato-pasta mixture and mix them, as milk thickens fast thanks to their starch.
Once the pasta is al dente, add to the mixture the onions you prepared before, grated Gryère and the slices of bacon that you have cut in about 2cm thick stripes. Mix everything together well and pour it in a pyrex or oven-safe tray. Sprinkle with a bit more cheese and put a few thin slices of butter on top. This you cook for about a quarter in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 180 C, until there is a nicely golden crust on the top.
As with any kind of gratin, it is easier to serve Älplermagronen, when it has colled down a bit. The pieces are not breaking so much. In Switzerland it is served with a bit of apple compote that you add at the side of your plate and mix it with your pasta. Personally, I do not like it with the apple compote. Älplermagronen tastes perfectly even without it!
Enjoy and feel free to comment if you try it!