Macaroni à la Rossini

Here is the recipe for two people, written at Rossini's dictation on Dec. 26, 1866: "To be sure of making good macaroni the first thing you need is the right dishes. The dishes I use come from Naples and are sold under the name of Vesuvius earthenware. The preparation of the macaroni is in four steps:

1. Cooking the pasta
Cooking the pasta is one of the most important operations and must be handled with the greatest care. First of all pour the pasta into stock that you have already brought to the boil; the stock must have been sieved; then the pasta is cooked over a low flame after adding a few centilitres of cream and a pinch of bitter orange. When the macaroni has cooked long enough to become slightly transparent take it off the cooker immediately and drain thoroughly; put all the macaroni to one side ready to be laid out in layers afterwards.

2. Preparing the sauce
Use an earthenware dish; this is what you do: For 200g of macaroni use: 50g of butter, 50g of grated Parmesan cheese, 5 decilitres of stock, 10g of dried mushrooms, 2 chopped truffles, 100g of lean chopped ham, 1 pinch of allspice, 1 bunch of mixed herbs, 1 tomato, 1 decilitre of cream, 2 glasses of champagne. Cook over a low flame for about an hour; strain through a colander and keep it warm in a bain-marie.

3. Preparing the layers
This is where you will need the dish in Vesuvius earthenware. After greasing it lightly with clarified butter and letting it cool down, pour in a layer of sauce, then a layer of macaroni which you should cover with a layer of grated Parmesan and Gruyère cheese and butter; then another layer of macaroni which you cover in the same way; bathe it all in sauce; then, on the top layer add some breadcrumbs and butter, and set the dish to one side ready to finish it "au gratin".

4. "Au gratin" finale
The difficult part is to have the dish crisp and golden ready for serving."

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