academia barilla chef  December 2006

A traditional Christmas Eve recipe

This is a traditional Christmas Eve first course from Parma, our hometown [...]

This is a traditional Christmas Eve first course from Parma, our hometown in Italy. I hope you will enjoy it with your family and gourmet friends.PASTICCIO DI LASAGNE DI MAGRO DELLA VIGILIA


Serves 12 to 15


For the pasta:
- 3 cups of unbleached, not enriched all-purpose flour
- 3 extra-large eggs (or 4 medium ones)
- 3 extra-large egg yolks (or 4 from smaller eggs)
- 1 tablespoon of warm water
- Salt to taste (optional)

To parboil the pasta:
- coarse grained salt
- 2 tablespoon olive oil

For the Mushroom Sauce:
- one ounce dried porcini mushrooms (try to get the originals imported from Italy, which are way far tastier then the authentic Italian porcini mushrooms)
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoon) of unsalted butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup of non-fat chicken broth, preferably homemade

Hot to make a traditional Balsamella (a Parma variation of the Bechamel Sauce, also known as Besciamella):
- 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) of unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons of unbleached, not enriched all-purpose flour
- 4 cups of whole milk
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
- 1 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (as for the porcini mushroom, try to get the original Italian parmesan cheese for better gourmet results)

For the fish stuffing:
- 1 and ½ pounds of fresh sole fillets, cut in halves
- 1 lemon cut in halves
- Coarse-grained salt
- 1 cup of unbleached, not enriched all-purpose flour
- 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) of unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ a cup of dry white wine

OK, here we go with the preparation and cooking –

Prepare the pasta into a layer, and then cut it into 6-inch squares.

Parboil the pasta squares, one at the time, in salted boiling water for a few seconds, then transfer the pasta to cool for a few seconds in a bowl with cold water and two tablespoons of olive oil.

Then drain the pasta and arrange the pasta squares to rest on lightly wet cotton towels, making sure the pasta squares do not touch each other. Cover the pasta with a second layer of dampened cotton, which will be he bed for the second layer of pasta. Repeat until all the pasta is parboiled and resting on the towels. Make sure to cover the last layer of pasta with a final wet cotton towel.

Now let’s prepare the Mushroom Sauce for our Pasticcio di Lasagne.

Soak and re-hydrate the dried porcini mushrooms for half an hour in a water-filled (3 cups) bowl. Drain the mushrooms making sure there is no more sand or dirt on the stems, and filter the soaking water through several layers of paper towels into a small ball to filter out the sand.

Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, add the mushrooms, season them at taste with salt and pepper and cook for ten minutes, adding the mushroom soaking water or the broth as necessary to maintain the mushrooms soft, while maintaining always very little sauce in the skillet.

Prepare the balsamella with the ingredients above (same process as classic béchamel crème), ad salt, pepper and nutmeg, and transfer it into a glass bowl.
Add the grated cheese, mix well, press over the sauce a piece of buttered parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming, and let the sauce rest in the refrigerator until needed.

We can now let’s work on the sole stuffing.

Soak the sole fillets for half an hour in cold water with the lemon halves squeezed and coarse salt to taste. When the fillet are ready drain them, rinse them, pat them dry and flour them evenly.

Place a second skillet with 6 tablespoons of butter and an additional tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. When the butter is completely melted, add the sole fillets, season them with salt and white pepper and sauté for 30 seconds.

Turn the fillets over, season again and add the wine, cooking for two minutes until it evaporates, then transfer the content of skillet onto a serving platter to cool completely, for about half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and use a tablespoon of the butter to lightly butter a 15½ by 10½ inch jelly roll pan.

It is time to assemble the dish.

Cover the bottom of the buttered pan with the squares of precooked pasta, allowing the pasta to hang out over the edges all around the pan of about 1 inch.

Arrange over the pasta half of the sautéed fish, a tablespoon of their juices and half of the cooked mushrooms. Add another layer of pasta squares, covering only the inside of the pan (no edges). Cover the pasta layer with half of the balsamella, then lay another layer of pasta, and the remaining fish and mushrooms. The next layer of pasta squares will be covered by the remaining balsamella.

Fold the hanging pasta pieces inward in the jelly roll pan, in order to cover the balsamella. A final layer of pasta squares will cover it all.

Arrange the remaining two tablespoons of butter, cut into pats all over, and bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes.

When removed from the oven, let the Pasticcio della Vigilia rest for a few minutes before serving it, cut into squares. No extra cheese is needed, and everyone will say: “Hey, the Pasticcio della Vigilia! It must be Christmas Eve!”.

Enjoy it. Merry Christmas from Academia Barilla.

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