Parsnip-topped Italian Villa Pie

So called because it is a far-flung variation of a cottage pie with Italian influences. It tastes so good that it can be served either for a family lunch or at an informal dinner party and needs only a green salad as an accompaniment. The pie has a moistening layer of spinach between the topping and the minced pork.


  • 550 g/ lb parsnips
  • 225 g/8 oz potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 900 g/2 lb minced pork
  • 6 rounded teaspoons tomato pesto
  • 2 rounded tablespoons tomato purée
  • 7.5 cm/3 in sprig fresh rosemary
  • 225 g/8 oz fresh spinach
  • 1 large egg
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling
  • salt
  • black pepper


Peel the parsnips if necessary. Peel the potatoes. Chop both up roughly, cutting the potatoes quite a lot smaller than the parsnips. Boil in salted water until they are both soft. Drain and mash thoroughly in a bowl, adding the ground cumin and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, plus salt and black pepper to taste. Leave on one side.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Put the minced pork into another mixing bowl and add the pesto and tomato purée. Pull the spikes off the rosemary, chop finely and add to the pork mixture. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Put another tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy frying pan over a high heat. Add the pork mixture and fry for 8-10 minutes, digging at the meat all the time with a wooden spoon until it has separated. If there are still juices in the pan, bubble fiercely until evaporated. Remove from the heat, taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Spoon the mixture into a large, rather shallow ovenproof dish and pat level. Chop the spinach leaves very finely and spread them on top of the meat. Whisk the egg thoroughly with a fork and mix it into the mashed parsnip mixture with a wooden spoon. Spread this mixture on top of the spinach layer and make flicks or patterns with a fork. Trickle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the top and sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Cook the pie on the centre shelf of the oven for 40-50 minutes, until a deep golden brown.