Vincisgrassi

An 18th-Century Pasta Dish

Vincisgrassi is a speciality of the Marche region of Italy, in particular of Macerata. The story goes that it was named after an Austrian general Windisch Graetz, who was with his troops in Ancona in 1799 during the Napoleonic war. Actually Antonio Nebbia, who wrote a gastronomic manual in 1784, mentioned in his book a similar dish called Princisgras.

Ingredients

Pasta

  • 500 g/1 lb2 oz Farina O or strong plain flour
  • 2 whole eggs, plus 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Sauce

  • 400 g/14 oz porcini, sliced
  • 200 g/7 oz Parma ham, cut in julienne
  • 1.2 litres/2 pt milk
  • 60 g/2 oz flour
  • 150 g/5 oz butter
  • 200 g/7 oz single cream
  • 60 ml/2 fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 150 g/5 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • truffle oil, or if possible a little shaved white truffle

Method

Make a dough from the pasta ingredients, knead well and roll through a pasta machine as you would for lasagne. Gut the pasta lengths into squares approximately 12.5 cm/5 in square. Cook the squares in plenty of boiling salted water a few at a time. Place on linen cloths to drain.

For the sauce

Melt 50 g/2 oz of the butter, add the flour and blend in well. Add the milk, which has been previously heated, a little at a time beating well with a balloon whisk. Cook the porcini in the olive oil and add to the béchamel. Stir in the Parma ham. Add the cream and parsley, season, and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat.

To assemble the vincisgrassi

Butter a gratin dish and cover the bottom with a layer of pasta, then spread over a layer of béchamel, dot with butter and sprinkle with some Parmesan cheese. Continue the process making layer after layer, finishing with a béchamel layer and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Cook in an oven preheated to 220°C/425°F/gas 7 for 20 minutes. Serve with a little truffle oil splashed on top or, better still, with shavings of white truffle, and a little Parmesan cheese.

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