Sometimes when I’m making pasta with vegetables, the vegetables themselves are so enjoyable that I want to eat them without the noodles. One such dish is a gratin of buckwheat noodles with cabbage and potatoes seasoned with brown butter and creamy Taleggio cheese. Though perfectly matched with the earthy buckwheat noodles, the cabbage and potatoes are also absolutely wonderful on their own and are substantial enough to make a hearty one-dish meal, washed down with a glass of Chianti.
Taleggio cheese may be difficult to find. If it isn’t available, use another cheese in its place, like Fontina, Bel Paese, mozzarella or a mixture of the three.
This dish can be assembled earlier in the day and then finished in the oven or it can be made completely on the stove, the potatoes added after the cabbage is cooked and the cheese shredded and tossed in at the end.
- 4 to 6 tablespoons brown butter (see Notes)
- 1 pound red-skinned or yellow-fleshed potatoes
- 6 fresh sage leaves, chopped or ½ teaspoon dried
- 3 large leeks, white parts only, sliced ¼ inch thick
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 or 2 pinches of red pepper flakes
- 1½ to 2 pounds savoy or regular green cabbage, quartered and shredded into ½-inch strips
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ pound Taleggio, Bel Paese or fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Make the brown butter first if you haven’t any already made. If the skins on the potatoes look fresh, scrub them and leave them on. Otherwise peel them and cut them into ½-inch chunks. Bring several quarts of water to a boil; add salt to taste and the potatoes. Lower the heat to a slow boil and cook until they are just tender, about 7 or 8 minutes. Remove them from the water and rinse them briefly to stop the cooking.
Heat half the brown butter in a skillet and add the sage, leeks, garlic, red pepper flakes, and enough water just to cover the bottom of the pan. Stew the mixture over medium-low heat until the leeks have softened; then add the cabbage by handfuls or in whatever size batches the pan will accommodate. When the cabbage wilts down, add more until all is used; then salt it lightly. Cover the pan and cook until the cabbage is tender.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the cabbage mixture together with the potatoes, the remaining brown butter, and the Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper. Layer the cabbage in an earthenware dish with the cheese. Cover and bake until the cheese is melted and the vegetables are hot, about 20 minutes.