Älplermagronen, or potato pasta casserole with applesauce (Switzerland)

Switzerland is a small landlocked country in Central Europe, known internationally for many things: the Alp mountains (and related things, such as skiing and alphorns), Swiss banks, Swiss chocolates, Swiss cheese and Swiss watches. Many also know that the Red Cross (and the Geneva Convention) originates from Switzerland – its logo is actually the Swiss flag (which peculiarly is rectangular) with the colors reversed. Switzerland is the wealthiest country in the world on several indices. Switzerland has tended to be neutral and independent in political issues: it was not involved in either of the world wars, is not a member of the EU and only became a full member of UN in 2002. Switzerland is divided into four regions with different cultures and languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh (not to be confused with Romanian). It is also divided into cantons, with a lot of regional legistlation.

Casseroles aren’t exactly summer fare, but I had a bag of Wilmersburger vegan cheese to use and couldn’t think of any other Vegventures recipe to use it in. Wilmersburger is great stuff: tastes real enough to suit most omnivores, melts, soy-free for those who need that, keeps very well, not very pricey. The only dowside is that it barely has any protein, which for someone like me, who has to eat fairly low-carb and high-protein, is a real problem. Well, this dish doesn’t have anything to do with low carbs, anyway. Jeezini and Violife are two other European vegan cheeses that are very similar. I don’t know about the U.S. – I recently had Daiya for the first time and despite all the praise, I found it vile. Anyway, use whatever you like. I looked at several recipes but based my vegan Älplermagronen mostly on this and this (PDF).

There are different cuisines in Switzerland, divided largely by the language borders. French-speaking people tend to eat French-influenced food, Italian-speaking people Italian-influenced and German speakers German-influenced. Most of the cuisine is heavy on potatoes and cheese. There are many famous Swiss cheeses, such as Gruyere and Emmenthal. Rösti is also an internationally-known dish similar to hash browns, made with grated potato which is fried – often with some cheese. Rösti was originally a breakfast dish, but has been replaced by muesli, another Swiss invention enjoying international popularity, and now is mostly eaten as a side dish. Cheese is also melted into fondue and the related raclette. Sweet and savory tarts and savory quiches and many kinds of breads are very popular.

Älplermagronen (from the German parts of Switzerland) is a baked pasta dish with potatoes and cheese, topped with browned onions and served with applesauce. The recipes vary: some have much more pasta than potatoes, some have even more potatoes than pasta. Some instruct to bake the onions with the casserole, some to serve them separately. In some you warm the applesauce, in others you make it and then cool. Well, this is what happens with all traditional dishes. I went for baking the onions and using cold applesauce, because it just seemed more appealing to me. You should be able to make gluten-free älplermagronen if you use non-mushy gluten-free pasta.



1.1 lbs/500 g firm-cooking potatoes, cubed
9 oz/250 g uncooked pasta, e.g. penne
0.8 cup/2 dl soy, rice, coconut, almond or cashew cream
1/4 tsp nutmeg
a little black pepper
7 oz/200 g vegan cheese (e.g. Wilmersburger)
2 onions, cut in rings
oil for frying
applesauce, homemade or storebought

Heat the oven to 375F/ C. Put a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and potatoes and cook until both are done (if the pasta is very quick-cooking, add the potatoes first for a few minutes). Stir a few times to make sure the pasta doesn’t stick together. Drain.

Line an ovenproof baking dish with baking paper (not necessary but makes cleanup a lot easier). Spread 1/3 of the potato-pasta mixture at the bottom. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat twice for three layers. Pour in the cream. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve with the applesauce. Makes 6-8 portions.

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