[We have a wander around Italy on the hunt for the most typical dishes of our heritage. Which you can also replicate at home, if you fancy. That’s right, because we’re also going to give you the recipe!]
French speakers are sure to turn their nose up at the somewhat dubious Italian transliteration of “Gattò”. What’s more, considering that, in Italian, if you simply remove the final accent you end up talking about pets (“gatto” is the Italian for “cat”)... yes, it’s all a bit borderline, I admit!
However, this is indeed the word (G A T T Ò) used to describe one of the most famous traditional Italian pies: mashed potatoes, cheese and cured meat, topped with a golden crust that makes your mouth water just talking about it.
I can already smell that intoxicating aroma – for many Italians synonymous with childhood, family and whatnot... Yes, it sounds cliché, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an Italian who doesn’t have memories and emotions associated with food.
But back to our Gattò! Neapolitan in origin, it dates back to the court of King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies and is a (delicious) example of gastronomic fusion. The French mashed potatoes are enhanced with mozzarella cheese and Italian cured meats and then popped in the oven: an invention of the monsieurs – the French court chefs – renamed monsù by the aristocrats who copied the custom of hiring chefs from beyond the Alps in their own, Neapolitan kitchens.
Even language experiences the fusion of cultures... 😉
[preparation time: one hour + 40 minutes cooking time].
Ingredients [serves 4]
- 500 g yellow potatoes
- 150 g mozzarella (or other stretched-curd cheese)
- 100 g mortadella, thinly sliced (or other cooked ham)
- 2 eggs
- 100 ml milk
- 2 tablespoons of grated cheese (preferably Parmesan)
- Olive oil
- Butter (a few knobs)
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)
The first task is to boil the potatoes: wash them and place them whole (and with their skins on) in a pot of cold water. They must be fully submerged. They will be ready after 30-40 minutes (counted from when the water begins to boil). To test if they are cooked: pierce the potato with a fork – if you don’t meet any resistance then you’re good to go.
While the potatoes boil, slice the mozzarella into cubes, leaving it aside to drain in a colander: excess whey could make your pie wet.
Back to the potatoes: drain and peel them while they are still warm – the skin should slide off more easily.
Next, we prepare the potato mixture, which we will call mash for the sake of convenience. Mash the potatoes with a fork or using a blender. Add the milk to make the mixture just a little bit creamier (but not too liquid!).
Then add the eggs (raw and whole), and mix together well with a fork. If you want to give your biceps a rest, you can always return to your trusty blender.
Finish off the mixture by adding the grated cheese, salt and pepper.
The time has come to create your Gattò, one layer at a time. Grease a baking dish about 20 cm in diameter with a thin layer of oil, then sprinkle the bottom and sides with breadcrumbs, setting aside any excess.
The first layer will be mash – press it into the bottom of the dish firmly. Top the mash with slices of mortadella then add mozzarella cubes.
Continue with a second layer of mash, followed by mortadella and mozzarella. Portion your ingredients so that the final layer is mash.
Garnish with a light dusting of breadcrumbs and a few flakes of butter.
Bake in a static oven preheated to 200oC for about 40 minutes, until the Gattò is golden brown. Since the consistency of the pie depends on so many variables (starting with the quality of the potatoes), I recommend serving it directly in the pan.
And there you have it, now your house will smell delicious too, just like you’re at the court of a Neapolitan king!
Buon appetito! 💗