Vincisgrassi

Marche Baked Pasta

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This wonderful dish is related distantly to the lasagna dish of Emilia Romagna, but it was created locally in honour of General Wiensgratz, the ruler of this area during the Austro-Hungarian domination of these northern provinces. The original recipe is more intricate, contains no tomato sauce and uses pigeon breasts, and the pasta dough in the classic recipe uses Marsala mixed into the flour with the eggs, giving it a strange colour and quite a different taste. Here is a more modern - yet just as special - version of the recipe, where arguably the most essential ingredient is still very much present: fresh black truffle.

Ingredients

  • 200 g/7 oz/ cups plain/all-purpose flour
  • 115 g/4 oz semolina
  • 5 eggs
  • 15 ml/1 tbsp olive oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • 600 ml/1 pint/2 ½ cups white sauce
  • 150 g/5 oz/ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For the Ragù

  • 45 ml/3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • a pinch of dried marjoram
  • 225 g/8 oz stewing veal, coarsely minced/ground or fairly finely chopped
  • 50 g/2 oz prosciutto crudo or pancetta, chopped
  • 25 g/1 oz/½ cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked for about 30 minutes in boiling water until softened, then drained and chopped
  • 15 ml/1 tbsp plain/all-purpose flour
  • 250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup red wine
  • 1.5 ml/¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 200 ml/7 fl oz/scant 1 cup thick passata/bottled strained tomatoes
  • 115 g/4 oz chicken livers, trimmed
  • 65 g/ oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 fresh black truffle, brushed clean and thinly sliced
  • sea salt and ground black pepper

Method

  1. Mix together the flour and semolina, and pile on a work surface in a mound. Make a hollow in the middle.

  2. Beat the eggs with the oil and salt. Pour into the hollow in the flour, then work the flour and egg mixture together with your fingertips to form a pliable dough. Knead until springy, then wrap in clear film or plastic wrap and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Roll out the pasta dough using a rolling pin or pasta machine, and cut it into 18-20cm/7-8in squares or into rectangles. Drop into salted boiling water in batches and cook until soft, then drain on damp dish towels, taking care not to overlap the pieces of pasta.
  4. To make the ragù, put the oil in a pan and gently fry three-quarters of the onion with the carrot, celery and marjoram for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not coloured. Add the veal, prosciutto and mushrooms, and sauté until browned.

  5. Stir in the flour. Increase the heat, add the wine and stir over a high heat for 1-2 minutes, or until the alcohol has evaporated from the wine. Lower the heat and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the passata. Cover and simmer for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, prepare the white sauce if you haven’t already.
  6. Sauté the chicken livers with 15 g/½ oz/1 tbsp of the butter and the remaining onion until just browned. Slice thinly. Add the livers and the truffle to the ragù. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.

  7. Butter an ovenproof dish and cover the base with the pasta. Cover with the ragù, then a layer of white sauce. Continue until you have used up all the ingredients, finishing with a layer of pasta. Cover with Parmesan cheese and dot with the remaining butter.

  8. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Leave to stand for at least 5 minutes before serving.

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