This has got to be one of the strangest recipes I have come across to date in my exploration of midcentury cuisine. On paper, I was skeptical. But, I am also curious about the unknown above all else, so I dived right in with glee. To the best of my knowledge this pasticcio recipe is a 17th century street food made during the Roman Carnival in the lead up to Fat Tuesday and Lent.
Essentially, it is a cold, sweet & savoury macaroni-meat pie. The filling is a combination of various meats, a beef gravy or tomato sauce, and rigatoni which is then placed inside a sweetened ‘pasta frolla’ pie shell, topped with a sweet ‘pasticciera cream’ and then sealed with a 2nd layer pasta frolla and baked in the oven. A truly gargantuan undertaking to make from scratch. But, is it worth it?
The brazen combination of sweet and savoury will undoubtedly not be to everyone’s tastes. However, with that said, this is an incredible dish. It’s both unique and decadent, with a pretty fabulous provenance that many Italian-Americans are probably not even aware of. Or genuine Italians for that matter. I am endlessly amused when regaling Italian-Americans or native Italians with these midcentury recipes to see which ones are familiar to them and which ones are complete oddities.
In case you were wondering, the overall effect of this recipe is most certainly a dessert. The signature Italian combination of lemon, vanilla and sugar that is present in both the pasta frolla and the pasticciera cream tips the scales of this dish into what I might consider a very hearty picnic dish. In so many ways, this dish really feels like the progenitor of what we know of today as typical Fair Ground food. Sweet, fatty and over the top. Personally, I really enjoyed it, although I found that it was best served slightly warmed up to soften the rigatoni and synthesize the flavours a bit better.
3 cups of beef gravy (see recipe below)
1 batch of pasticciera cream (see recipe below)
1 batch of pasta frolla (see recipe below)
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup butter
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/4 lb mushrooms, minced
1 package of rigatoni (500 grams dry)
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1 egg, beaten
Ingredients for beef gravy:
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery, chopped
1 tbsp of lard
2 cups beef stock
1 cup dry red wine
Ingredients for pasticciera cream:
3 tbsp sugar
3 egg yolks
3 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups milk
1 tbsp butter
Ingredients for pasta frolla:
2 cups pastry flour
1 cup sugar
1 pinch of salt
1/2 cup of butter
1/2 tsp lemon rind, grated
1. Prepare “beef gravy” as follows:
2. Saute onions, carrots, and celery in lard until tender
3. Deglaze with red wine and reduce until slightly
4. Add beef stock, bring to a boil and simmer for ten minute. Set aside
5. Prepare “pasticciera cream” as follows:
6. Mix together sugar, egg yolks, flour, lemon rind and vanilla in a saucepan.
7. In a separate saucepan, scald the milk and then pour it into the egg mixture whisking briskly, or with a hand mixer.
8. Simmer mixture on low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until it has thickened. Continue to cook for 4 minutes on low heat after it has thickened.
9. Remove from heat, add butter and let cool. Stirring occasionally.
10. Prepare the “pasta frolla” as follows:
11. Sift together flour, cinnamon, sugar, and salt.
12. Make a well in flour mixture and add eggs, butter, and grated lemon rind and then knead to a firm dough.
13. Wrap and chill in a refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
14. Once beef gravy has cooled, skim fat off surface as needed.
15. Remove sausages from casings and mince.
16. Saute sausage and ground beef in 1 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of beef gravy for 10 minutes. Set aside.
17. Cook rigatoni in salted water until el dente. Drain.
18. Mix together rigatoni, 1/4 cup of butter, Parmesan, and remaining beef gravy. Let cool.
19. Here’s where things get tricky. Theoretically, the pasticcio is supposed to be a fully enclosed pastry. However, I found that the filling was far too large to fit into my cake pan for one. And for two, I wouldn’t have had enough pasta frolla to adequately encase all the filling. If you would like to make this dish as a traditional “tart,” I would recommend doubling the pasta frolla recipe and reducing the quantity of filling by half. What I did, on the other had, was simply place all the filling in a large casserole dish and then sealing the top with the dough, which worked quite well. So, that’s how this recipe will continue!
20. In a large casserole dish, place half of the rigatoni in a layer. Place the meat mixture on top of that. And then finish with a final layer of rigatoni.
21. Pour pasticciera cream over top.
22. Roll out pasta frolla and cover the top of the casserole dish to seal the filling inside.
23. Brush with beaten egg.
24. Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.
25. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and cool.