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As a kid Fridays were tough for me. I ate at public school but, in deference to Catholics, they served only fish-sticks mac-and-cheese. Friday night at home, my mother was only mac-and-cheese. She was not a “from scratch” kind of cook so I saw a lot of boxes with labeled Kraft.

I left home after college at 22. I think it was two decades before I ever, ever looked a mac-and-cheese in the face again.

Italians do it better, of course. This complex pie dates from holiday feasts in the Renaissance in Northern Italy. It is worth the effort.

Ah, besides all the ingredients you see below, you’ll also need two cups of bechamel sauce. I said festive and Renaissance.

Macaroni Pie Ferrara-Style

Yield: serves 4 to 6


For the pastry:

  • 2½ cup all-purpose/plain flour
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ cup superfine/caster sugar
  • ⅔ cup butter, chopped
  • 3 egg yolks

For the meat sauce and filling:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped pancetta
  • 1 ¾ cups finely diced veal
  • 1 cup trimmed, diced chicken livers
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 ¼ cups sieved tomatoes/passata
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • Dash of grated nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 cups bechamel sauce [use your own favorite recipe or see the one in your copy of this book]
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ cup fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 14 ounces macaroni
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese


Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and stir in a dash of salt and the sugar. Rub the butter into the flour, work quickly using the tips of your fingers. The mixture will look like very fine breadcrumbs.

Mix the egg yolks in with a fork, then work briefly by hand, just enough to amalgamate the mixture. Shape the dough into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap. Place·in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

To prepare the meat sauce, melt the butter, in a heavy-bottomed pan. Sauté the pancetta for 3-5 minutes. Add the veal and chicken livers, then brown, stirring all the time.

Pour in the wine and cook until it has evaporated.

Add the sieved tomatoes and season with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

Simmer for 40 minutes over heat.

Prepare the bechamel sauce according to your favorite recipe. Grease a 9½ inch diameter springform pan with the remaining butter and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

Roll out two-thirds of the pastry dough into a round large enough to line the bottom and sides of the springform pan. Line the pan with it.

Cook the macaroni in a large pot of boiling. water until they are only just tender and still firm to the bite. Drain and mix with half the meat sauce.

Spoon a layer of macaroni over the bottom of the dough on the bottom of the springform pan. Cover with a layer of the remaining meat sauce, followed by a layer of the bechamel sauce. Sprinkle with a little parmesan.

Repeat the process you have used up all the ingredients.

Roll out the remaining pastry disk to form a lid for the pie. Pinch the edges to seal tightly, enclosing· contents. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 35

Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving.·

Source: Time-Life Flavors of Italy, Emilia Romagna [1999]