Sun 24 May 2009
This recipe was originally written for the first edition of the recipe book by parents, teachers, and students of the Eduplin Preschool.
These days Italians frequently use the word “pasticcio” to describe complicated stuff, much like Venezuelans would use “pastel” (pie). It is because, in all its forms, the pasticcio is a concoction of tomatos, meat, and pasta, baked in the oven like a pie.
Different forms of pasticcio have been prepared for centuries in the populations that border the Mediterranean Sea, with each region having its own version. The original recipes come from Grece and South Italy, and they consist of actual pies with crusts made of wheat filled with a ragú. Venezuelans are used to call “pasticcio” to the creamy and compact preparation served in many Italian restaurantes, but that, because of its characteristics, should be called “Lassagna alla Romana”.
This dish is not a real pasticcio either, but it is much more like it than the Lasagna alla Romana, it’s easier to make, and it’s the one we like at home. It doesn’t have cream, the souce is of tomatoes with meat instead of meat with tomatoes, and it has a very Mediterranean flavor. In contrast with the typical Caracas pasticcio, this one has an intense flavor, which makes it easy to accompany with other dishes, and it tastes very well after refrigerated and reheated.
- The Sauce
- The Meat
- The Pasta
- The Pasticcio
- Tomatoes Four to seis ripe, plum tomatoes per person. If canned, add one shredded carrot per pound of tomatoes to compensate for the acidity (onions work too).
- Garlic One clove per person.
- Black Olives Four to six per person. Greek ones have a nice flavor.
- Anchovees One to two filets per person. Use the bownless and pink ones.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil It is used generously, so have available at least half a cup for every two pounds of tomatoes.
- Perled Ground Beef 70 to 120 grams per person. Choose a cut with some grease and have it ground coarsely in front of you. Packaged ground beef is not as good.
- Ground Parmiggiano or Peccorino Cheese About 50 grams per person.**
- Fresh Basil cut in small strips.
- Fresh Orégano Leaves
- Pasta 100 to 150 grams per person, depending on how hungry people are, and on other dishes. We use lasagna, but short pasta (penne, rigatonni, fussili) works great.
- Salt and Pepper
- Variations You can add other herbs like salvia, bay leafs, or thyme, to taste. You can also add a couple of strips of bacon per person, or an equivalent amount of pork to the meat.
Preparation tine for the sauce is proportional to the amount of tomatoes: aproximately half an hour, plus an addtional half hour for each four persons. The sauce takes time to thicken to the right point, but the work is very little. The sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated.
Cot the tomatoes in half and then in thin slices (if they are canned, squash them with your hands, keeping the liquid). Peel and cut the garlik in thin slices. Cut the anchovee filets coarsely. Pit the olives and cut them in slices.
Use a pan with enough size to hold all the tomatoes. Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom, and heat to low heat. Add the garlic and cook until it starts changing color (if that seems to be happening too fast, lower the heat!). And the anchovees and the olives, raise the heat a bit, and cook for a few minutes, until the anchovees and olives start to dehydrate (this step is to make the ingredients transfer their flavor to the oil).
Add the tomatoes and raise the heat to medium-high. Add some salt, and cook the tomatoes until they start to come a part and you begin to get a sauce. Lower the heat so the sauce doesn’t sprinkle out of the pan (if you cover the pan, the cooking will take longer). If you used canned tomatoes, add the shredded carrots at this point.
Stir the sauce frequently with a wooden spoon so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Add olive oil during the cooking until the sauce has a brilliant, yummy color, and stops sticking to the bottom of the pan. The sauce is ready when it’s thick enough to let you see the bottom of the pan when you run a wooden spoon accross it. The sauce, when ready, must be slightly oily.
Season the ground meat to taste with salt, pepper, a good amount of basil, and other spices you like (I’ve used cinamon, cloves, paprika,.. at times).
Place a small amount of olive oil on a pan, and let it heat on high. Add the meat when the oil is hot. Stir constantly until the meat starts to brown. Remove the meat from the heat and add it to the tomato sauce. Place the pan in the stove again, recover the juices with wine, broth, or water, and add them to the sauce. Cook the tomato sauce until it thickens again.
Adjust the flavor of the sauce with salt and fresh pepper. Add, to taste, abundant basil and oregano.
When you’re ready to make the pasticcio, cook the pasta in abundant, salty water. Remove the pasta from the water before it is done, and cool it with running water to stop the cooking.
You’ll need enough medium-depth baking pans to hold the pasticcio. As an idea, a 16”x10”x3” pan is good for about eight people. The pans can be any shape.
Place a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan. Then, susecively, add thin layers of pasta, sauce, and chesse, sprinkling with some basil each time. Repeat until the pan is full, adding some extra cheese to the last layer. If you’re using lasagna, cut the pieces with your hands so they don’t align from layer to layer, and they cover well the borthers of whatever shape of pan you’re using; that will give structure to the pasticcio, and prevent it from cooking too much on the borders.
To serve, heat the pasticcion in an oven at 220 C (450F) until the cheese in the top layer starts to melt and brown (use less temperature when reheating it). Serve immediately.
You can accompany the pasticcio with a salad of dark green leaves, and a good red wine.