1 JUNE 1991, Page 43

Pasta pie and make it snappy • e ' •

DO YOU remember the magnificent de- scription of a traditional monumental macaroni pie in The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa? A mouthwatering bit of prose if ever there was one: The burnished gold of the crusts, the fragrance of sugar and cinnamon they exuded were but preludes to the delights released from the interior when the knife broke the crust: first came a spice-laden haze, then the chicken livers, hard-boiled eggs, sliced ham, chicken and truffles in masses of piping hot, glistening macaroni to which the meat juice gave an exquisite hue of suede.' Wow!

These pies are traditionally from Romagna and they are the only pasta dishes to use the same short pastry as in sweet tarts, i.e. pate brisd. In the original receipts it is not just the chicken livers that are used but also the cockscombs and testicles together with the egg tract con- taining the unlaid eggs — all quite difficult to secure round my area. However, Willy Landels and I tried out a pie from his mother's notes, which, like all old scribbles for the cook, gave no indication of amounts, and the ingredients for the pastry were quite wrong. Nevertheless, we pro- duced a savoury effort from pigeon, mor- tadella, Italian sausage and mushrooms. I now offer you a detailed receipt.

Pasticcio di maccheroni

3/4 lbs macaroni, broken into 3" lengths

1/2 pint really good meat stock made properly

11/2 oz dried mushrooms 3/4 lb calves' sweetbreads

1/4 lb chicken livers 2 oz prosciutto crudo, cut very thin 1/4 lb butter V4 lb freshly grated parmesan cheese Vi pint thick béchamel sauce salt and pepper

Start by making the short pastry with 3/4 lb flour, 5 oz butter, 1 egg and Vz oz sugar. Either by hand or in a food-processor, knead lightly to form a smooth dough, wrap in a clean, floured cloth and leave to rest in a cool place while you are getting on with the pie, but don't refrigerate. Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water but take them out while they are still very much al dente. When drained, put them in a frying pan with half the stock, cook over a medium heat until they have absorbed the liquid — about two minutes. Put the dried mushrooms into tepid water for 20 minutes, drain and chop roughly. Blanch the sweetbreads for three minutes in boil- ing water, then plunge into a bowl of cold water. Remove the membrane and any hard tendons. Chop roughly with the chicken livers. Put 1 oz butter in a small frying pan: when just bubbling, fry the livers and sweetbreads very gently for two minutes. Leave on one side. In another pan fry the mushrooms in an ounce of butter until tender, about four minutes. Cut the prosciutto with its fat into small strips and add to the chicken liver mixture. Add the mushrooms and the remaining 2 oz butter. Mix over a very gentle heat until the butter is melted but not doing any further cooking. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Have a cake tin large enough to take all the ingredients, butter it lavishly. Roll out the pastry, line the tin with it, keeping back enough to make the lid. Put the macaroni and the sauce and some of the grated parmesan cheese in alternate layers into the pastry case; all the sauce should be used up and the last layer should be covered with the béchamel sauce and the rest of the parmesan. Place the pastry lid on top and pinch it in place. Decorate at will if you have some scraps of pastry left and brush with beaten egg. Place in a preheated oven at Gas 7, F425, C220 for 40 minutes. When you remove it, let it rest for a couple of minutes. Turn it out and reverse it. Serve at once. A cake tin with a collapsible bottom could facilitate matters.

I was given a packet of alligator chunks by a friend, who couldn't face them. They have been loitering in the freezer for some time and I have finally tried them out. They taste rather like pigs' trotters. This is a curious dish but good and crunchy.

Take 2 lbs alligator chunks, 8 spring onions, chopped, 4 tablespoons of chopped parsley, 4 crushed coves of garlic and sauté them until the vegetables are transparent in about 4 tablespoons of oil. Into a large bowl break up 8 pieces of toast, 2 beaten eggs and enough single cream to soften the toast. Mix well with the alligator mess, season well with salt and pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Place in a baking dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and dot with butter. Bake for 30 minutes at Gas 4-5, F375, C190. Quite odd.

Jennifer Paterson