[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!]
The Neapolitan court of Ferdinand of House Bourbon (first king of the Two Sicilies) was, among other things, the scene of great culinary delights.
The same “monsù” chefs who invented the Gattò di patate (Neapolitan potato cake) were able to transform plain old rice into a delectable dish, a mouth-watering casserole fit for a king... or queen! 😉
Sartù was created precisely to offer this sovereign a dish he could enjoy based on this cereal grain that he generally found bland, dull and lacking in flavour.
So, what did the monsù, or court cooks, invent? They took rice and added tomato sauce, mozzarella (essential!), peas, boiled eggs and meatballs. The result exceeded all expectations, so much so that not only did Ferdinand love it, but he also promoted Sartù to the status of one of his favourite dishes.
It can come in a plethora of variations: with or without liver, with sausage instead of meatballs, with a simple tomato sauce instead of meat sauce, with mozzarella swapped for a stronger-tasting cheese – like caciocavallo or provolone.
Two ingredients, however, are compulsory: tomato and that crispy breadcrumb crust!
The traditional recipe takes a lot of work. But since in these newsletters we aim to make complicated things easier, here is our version of Sartù.
OUR VERSION OF SARTÙ
[preparation time: one hour for preparation + one hour for cooking]
Ingredients [serves 6/8]
- A round, high-sided mould – 20 cm in diameter by 12 cm high
- 500 g rice (preferably Carnaroli)
- 200 g frozen peas
- 4 eggs (of which 2 hard boiled)
- 150 g mozzarella
- 300 g fresh sausage (thinly sliced)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons of grated cheese (like Parmesan)
- Half a yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- A few knobs of butter
- Fine salt and pepper (to taste)
- Leftovers tucked away in the fridge:
- a generous amount of tomato sauce
- about ten tablespoons of meat ragù sauce
Before we begin, an important disclaimer: this is NOT the traditional recipe for Sartù. However, the result is very similar to the original. Best of all, it will be a delicious way to transform some leftovers into a heavenly casserole.
Let’s get started! Take the peas out of the freezer and let them thaw out: by the time we have finished all the steps, they will be almost at room temperature!
Cut the mozzarella into cubes and leave it aside to drain in a colander: it needs to lose its liquid, otherwise the Sartù will turn out too watery.
In a non-stick pan, cook the sliced sausage: don’t be tempted to remove it from its casing, otherwise it will fall apart. No need to grease the pan: the fat contained in the meat will suffice (and your cholesterol will thank you).
Boil the eggs. After boiling for 7 to 8 minutes, run them under cold water to stop them from cooking any further – otherwise the yolk will take on that greenish hue, which is not befitting of a great chef…
Now it’s time to cook the rice: in a saucepan, sauté the onion in a little oil. Once it has browned, pour in the rice and toast it. Add a touch of salt. It is cooked like a risotto, just with tomato sauce (well diluted with water) instead of stock, one ladle after another: the rice will turn a brilliantly bright red and absorb the flavour of the tomato. Leave it al dente – cook it just a few minutes less than it recommends on the packet.
Transfer it to a bowl and let it cool. Finally, mix it with two beaten eggs, a little more salt (just a pinch!), pepper and grated cheese.
We are finally ready to assemble our Sartù. Grease the inside of the mould (including the sides) with a thin layer of oil to create a sticky surface on which you’ll sprinkle the breadcrumbs, gently shaking off any excess.
Pour some of your rice mixture into the mould, pressing it into the base and sides as you go, to create a layer about 1 centimetre thick. Make sure you don’t run out of rice: you will need some to close your casserole.
Then, stuff this rice “crater” in layers: a few spoonfuls of meat sauce, half the mozzarella, half the hard-boiled eggs (sliced), half the sausage, and half the thawed peas, followed by a second layer of all the ingredients – in this case, with the last layer being the eggs (sliced, of course).
Cover your casserole with the rest of the rice mixture, pressing it down and compacting it well.
Top it all off with a layer of breadcrumbs and a few knobs of butter. Bake for one hour in a static oven at 180oC. The fan function would dry out our Sartù too much, the heart of which must remain soft, rich and fragrant thanks to the countless ingredients that make it up.
To make sure you don’t burn your tongue, let it cool for about ten minutes before serving.
And voilà, our version of Sartù is ready to be enjoyed just like you’re at the Bourbon court!
Buon appetito! 💗