“Mom, what’s for dinner?” “Hotdish,” my mother would reply.
This type of exchange would have taken place decades ago within my family in Minnesota, where I grew up. Hotdish is a regional American term for a casserole. It typically combines a starch, like pasta or potatoes, with meat and vegetables and all in one pot.
Now I’m the mother in this dialogue, cooking up dinner for my hungry children — except we live across an ocean and then some from my home state. This distance makes it even more important for me to share my family’s food traditions. Today, I still rely on some of those old favorites from my childhood when I prepare meals at home, including that hearty and wholesome hotdish.
My reinvented pasta recipe that I have shared below is based on Pasta Garofalo‘s “Napolicious” series, and it reminds me of an Upper Midwest American hotdish. My kids (thankfully) liked it from the first bite. They even eat the leftovers without complaint the next day. I think of this dish like a Swiss-Italian version of hotdish, made with two traditional cheeses from Switzerland and delicious pasta from Italy. It’s a quick dish you can throw on the table for dinner that everyone will likely enjoy.
Two Swiss Cheeses: Ziger and Sbrinz
The original recipe that inspired my Swiss-Italian hotdish calls for ricotta and parmesan — two well-known Italian cheeses. Instead, I replaced them with Ziger and Sbrinz, both of which appear among the directory of traditional Swiss food products from Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse.
Ziger (German), or Sérac (French), has a crumbly texture like Ricotta that is produced by adding an acid — typically vinegar — to either whey, or a whey and buttermilk mixture. It is a by-product of the cheese production process, particularly from cooked, pressed cheeses like Gruyère or Emmentaler.
Sbrinz is a very hard cheese that has existed in Switzerland since the 16th century. It has a taste and texture that reminds me of Parmesan cheese, but unlike its Italian cousin, Sbrinz is made with whole milk. It must age for about 16-18 months before it’s ready to eat. The AOP (Appellation d’origine protégée) designation for Sbrinz, which it earned in 2002, guarantees that cheese with this label is made using traditional methods and in a particular region of Switzerland.
Pasta Garofalo — An Italian Tradition Available in Switzerland
When I was approached to share a recipe made with Pasta Garofalo, the assignment was a natural fit for my family because it’s a pasta we routinely purchase from Migros. Pasta Garofalo has been making pasta since 1789. It comes in many different shapes and sizes — short and long cuts — for all your favorite pasta recipes. The company produces their pasta in Gragnano, Italy, which has earned the nickname of Citta della Pasta (City of Pasta) because of the longstanding history of pasta-making, dating back five centuries.
Fusilli with Ziger & Sbrinz
- 230 grams Ziger/Sérac or ricotta, crumbled into small pieces
- Bolognese sauce, your favorite — homemade or jarred, to taste
- 500 grams fusilli
- Sbrinz or Parmesan cheese, grated
- salt and pepper, to taste
- chopped fresh basil
- Place a pot of water on the stove to cook the pasta. While you wait for the water to boil, crush the Ziger with a fork to give it a more crumbly and creamy texture.
- Separately, heat the Bolognese sauce in a large pan. When the water comes to a boil, cook the pasta until it is “al dente,” and drain the pasta.
- Add the hot, cooked pasta and Ziger to the large pan with the Bolognese sauce. Over medium heat, stir until everything is heated through. If needed, add salt and pepper, to taste.
- Sprinkle with grated Sbrinz and sliced fresh basil. Serve immediately.