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Like everything Italian, this dish comes with a deep history and a lot of controversy. There are two theories on the origins of this dish, both highly disputed and both controversial. The first theory is that an Austrian general called Windisch Graetz and his troops defended the city of Ancona from the occupying Napoleon’s troops. He did so with such passion and zeal that a chef created the dish based on one that the general liked and dedicated to him. A second variation on the first theory is that In another version of the tale of Windisch Graetze, he stopped at a farmhouse when he was tired and hungry and asked for food. The woman of the house wanted to make him something rich and satisfying and created this dish for him.

According to the second legend, however, the dish was actually first mentioned in a cookbook written by Antonio Nebbia in 1779. The book, entitled “Il cuoco maceratese” (“The chef from Macerata”), mentions a recipe for preparing the “princisgras” (“grease of princes”) sauce. The similarity of the two dishes and names has led some to speculate that Nebbia was, in fact, the inventor of the dish, particularly as Nebbia wrote the very first cookbook that was used throughout Italy.

This is a classic dish from the Le Marchese region of Italy, a region on the East coast of the leg of Italy. The region is known for its rich cuisine that includes speciality olives that are deep fried, stews and seafood soups. One of the specialized cooking techniques in the region is alla brace or grilling over a wood fire. Meats are grilled to perfection. The region is also home to wonderful sausages, including the now famed ‘nduja sausage from Calabria

This is a rich dish, as General Windisch Graetz asked for. The layers of pasta are enveloped in a rich Bechamél sauce and loads of gooey cheese. The mushrooms, add earthy notes. I suggest that you splurge for wild mushrooms and/or the flavourful chanterelles, morels, porcini or Matsuke mushrooms so the dish's flavour is spectacular. In addition, the final drizzle of mushrooms, or shaved white truffles, makes his dish luxurious and fit for a king. The richness of this dish means that you can enjoy it in small amounts, but the flavour persists on your palate, making you want to dig into the leftovers the next day.

One of the problems with having too many cookbooks is that there are not enough days in a year or people or reasons to cook from them all the time. I generally tend toward 275 recipes a year. See my blog. It took me some time to arrive at this recipe, one that I have eyed for some time. Like all her other cookbooks, this recipe and cookbook are outstanding. All her cookbooks bring a wonderful diversity of flavours and cuisines to my table. Go out and buy all her cookbooks, I cannot recommend them enough

For more delicious recipes from this cookbook, click here.


For the pasta:

5 sheets of lasagna pasta

A few drops of olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

6 cups water

For the mushrooms:

3 tablespoons butter

3 slices prosciutto, diced finely

1 lb wild or button mushrooms, sliced

Salt, to taste

1 teaspoon pepper

6 dried mushrooms, soaked in water for 45 minutes

2 tablespoons parsley, minced + more for garnish

Truffle oil, to serve

2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

For the bechamel sauce:

5 cups full-fat milk

1/2 onion, sliced

10 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

A pinch nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cook the pasta in a pot with olive oil, salt, and water according to the manufacturer's instructions, minus 1 minute for al dante. Drain and cool under running water. Set aside.

To make the mushrooms, heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the prosciutto and fry for a minute until the meat is crisp and the fat is rendered.

Add the fresh, sliced mushrooms, salt, and pepper and fry on medium heat until the liquids evaporate and the mushrooms are coloured to a lovely golden brown.

Drain and dice the dried, soaked mushrooms finely. Add them to the pan and fry for an additional 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the parsley. Set aside.

To make the Bechamél sauce, heat the milk and add the onion, peppercorns and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer for 1 minute and steep for 30 minutes.

Heat the butter in a small saucepan. Add the flour and cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes until the flour is lightly golden. Add the nutmeg and pepper and mix in well. Strain the steeped milk into the mix while continually stirring. Cook for 3 minutes till the sauce has thickened to the consistency of light cream.

Add the cooked mushrooms to the sauce and mix in well.

To assemble the dish, butter a 91/2 X 91/2 oven-safe dish. Add a layer of pasta followed by some of the mushroom-Bechamél sauce. Top with some grated Parmesan. Add three more layers of pasta, sauce, and cheese to the dish, finishing with a layer of sauce and a generous sprinkling of cheese. The dish can be stored until needed for up to 24 hours.

Heat the oven to 400° F.

If the dish has been stored in the fridge, bring it up to room temperature. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is bubbly and browned in spots. Remove and let it sit for 3 minutes. Serve hot, drizzled with truffle oil if desired and a sprinkling of parsley.

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