Only a couple of weeks ago it was New Year’s. That means that you’ve all forgotten about your New Year’s resolution by now, and your brand-new gym membership cards have started gathering their very first layers of dust. ‘Dry January’ will definitely, definitely start next week (or the week after that, tops), and your diet is currently on hold – where it will stay for the next 4 months, until the threat of bikini season starts to materialise. And that’s good, because I’ve got a treat for you this week, and it does not care about your diet.
You see, I spent New Years in Naples, and people there know how to eat. Which is why I love them. Neapolitans cook the most delicious things you’ve ever eaten, and the best thing is, they’ll insist you try everything. I can’t say no to food, and they seem happiest when they’re feeding, so we’ve got a beautiful friendship going on, the Neapolitans and I.
Mostly I was fed sweets this year, which seem to be an important part of the festive season down there (and anywhere, I suppose – maybe that’s not really unique to Naples). Every one of them was presented with the words “Here, Ditta, try this, this is typical for Naples, it only exists here, only we have this”. They were all new to me, most of them were delicious, and I’d love to try some of them out. However, Neapolitans are very strict about their traditions, and unfortunately you can’t make struffoli and roccocò unless it’s Christmas – which means it’ll have to wait a year.
However, a dish that was on my wish list, and that I finally managed to try out when I was down south, is sartù di riso. It’s seriously one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, and although it requires a lot of work, it’s not difficult to make. You take some of the most delicious things in the world, ever, like rice, sauce, eggs, sausages, and cheese, and you pile it all together in an oven dish, after which you stick it in the oven to melt together – what’s not to like?
You can change, add or omit ingredients to your heart’s content. I’m pretty sure this is one of those ‘every family has their own recipe and everyone’s convinced that theirs is the best’ dishes, so why shouldn’t you have your own? I’m settling with this one as mine. And obviously, it’s the best. For a sizeable dish full of sartù, enough to feed 4-5, use:
For the ragù, use the following (or if you have your own recipe that you prefer, use that):
- half a kilo of mince
- 500ml of tomato passata, plus a little extra for sauce emergencies
- 1 onion
- a clove of garlic
- a dried chili (or some dried chili flakes)
- 1 glass of red wine
- some fresh or dried herbs of your choice
For the rest:
- half a kilo of rice, use a type that’s suitable for risotto (I used Roma)
- a cup of peas (frozen will do just fine – tinned or jarred make me cry, but you decide)
- 200gr of spicy sausage
- 3 eggs, boiled
- 1 ball of mozzarella
- a nice wee chunk of scamorza (or another smoked cheese, if you can’t get scamorza. You can use any cheese you like, really, but a smoked type gives it a nice wee kick)
- enough parmesan, grated
Like I said, this isn’t difficult, but it requires a lot of work. better to go about it more or less systematically.
Boil the eggs. You want hard yolks, so with 10 minutes you wouldn’t be exaggerating. Then rinse them with cold water and peel them as normal.
Boil the rice in enough, salted water, until it’s al dente, or ‘slightly too hard to eat comfortably’. It’ll cook some more when you put it all in the oven later, so you don’t want to boil it too long. Taste every now and then to check for texture. Drain, and put aside.
Make your ragù! Finely chop the onion and crush the garlic. Fry in some olive oil, along with the chilies. When the onion goes fragrant and transparent, add the mince. Fry it until it’s brown all the way through (but preferably still a bit tender), add some salt, then add the glass of wine. Stir occasionally, until all of the wine has evaporated. Then add the tomato sauce. I’d say 500 ml is enough, but keep a little bit on the side in case the sauce goes dry toward the end. Stir well, taste for salt, pepper and sugar (yes, really, if your sauce is sour, add a pinch of sugar – not too much!), add any herbs you might want and leave on low heat for a while. Then, after some time, add the boiled rice, the peas (still frozen is not a problem) and one of the boiled eggs, all chopped up into small chunks.
The sausage meat has to come out of its intestiny jacket. Grab the sausage in one hand, and use your thumb and index finger of the other to squeeze little balls of meat out of the sausage skin and pop them straight into a frying pan. Fry until you get tiny little sausage meat balls. Take about half of those and chuck them in with the rice and ragù as well.
Now you’re almost ready for the final product. Take your cheese (the mozzarella and the scamorza, that is) and cut them into chunks of about 1cm3. Do the same to your two remaining eggs. Take half of your rice mixture and scoop it into an oven dish. Press down, and cover with the cheese, egg and the remaining sausage balls, leaving a small border on the side so you don’t get your melting cheese stuck to the dish later. Cover your filling with the other half of the rice mixture, then cover that with parmesan. Shove the whole thing into the oven for about half an hour, putting the grill on for the last minute to get that super delicious crusty cheese layer. Take it out of the oven, leave it for about 5 minutes to settle, then serve it up. Prepare to have your mind blown and your resolutions destroyed.