Happy Fourth of July! This is the day that Americans all around the world celebrate the founding of their nation by performing its two great ritual pastimes: cooking a lot of meat, and blowing things up. Since this is not an explosives blog (yet), I'm not going to post any recipes for the latter activity. On the other hand, I have a pie recipe that reflects our national motto, "E pluribus unum" -- "Out of many, one!" -- pretty well, I think. Benjamin Franklin, that glorious rake, lifted the phrase from a work of Virgil's (or Pseudo-Vergilius's) entitled "Moretum", which is your basic elderly peasant hard but good life idyll with a recipe for pesto thrown in. Here are the money lines:
it manus in gyrum, paulatim singula viresI'm not Belle Waring (though after the initial period of adjustment I'd bet it'd be pretty cool), so I'm going to quote one John Augustine Wilstach's translation of 1884:
deperdunt proprias, color est e pluribus unus
Spins round the stirring hand; lose by degrees'That rules' is filler, unfortunately making the passage sound like it was inscribed on a ring somewhere. But you get the gist. Stirring, stirring, stirring towards unity! The pie connection is obvious. Also, spaghetti pie is a meat pie, or at least this version is. So it fits the cooking meat Fourth of July tradition as well.
Their separate powers the parts, and comes at last
From many several colors one that rules.
There are really two recipes here: one for the filling, and one for the crust. For reasons of time management I started with the filling. The filling for spaghetti pie is basically a really thick meat spaghetti sauce. If you have your own recipe, you can skip this, or maybe read it for comparative purposes. I make no pretense to authenticity or high culinary art or even repeatability with this sauce, but I do know that once I made it, I never stopped nibbling at it. I started by chopping a medium onion and four cloves of garlic and putting them in a skillet. I drizzled olive oil on top, and cooked the onion down. The pieces were 'translucent' as the cookbooks say, a little see-through, but I go more by volume. There's a lot of water in an onion. Then I added some sliced white mushrooms, and drizzled some more olive oil on top. This was around eight ounces, or about 250 g worth, and I was seriously thinking about adding more. Mushrooms are also rather watery, so I cooked those down as well, until they were getting brown and tender. I let the water released by the vegetables cook off a little longer, and then added a pound of ground beef. I knew, by the supermarket that sold it, that this too would release a fair amount of water. So I browned the meat, let the liquid cook off, added some salt and pepper, and let the flavors intermingle. There's a chemical process called the Maillard reaction that plays an important role here in developing the flavors: the carbohydrates given up by the vegetables combine chemically with the amino acids in the meat to produce complexities of flavor that chemists still have difficulty analyzing. After the meat had browned, and the water released had largely cooked off, I stirred in two 8 ounce cans of nearly generic tomato sauce. Of course, these too were also watery. I stirred in some dried oregano, and let it simmer. Note: if I had green peppers on hand, I would have added them very early in the process. If I had some olives, I would have added them just after the tomato sauce. That's also when I would have added a little bit of wine to the sauce, not very much at all. But these are all my personal preferences: I like the peppers in my spaghetti sauce mushy, my olives firm, and I'd rather drink my wine than eat it. After the sauce had reduced even further, I moved it to a burner at one side, set very low, and began work on the crust. As you may have guessed, the crust of a spaghetti pie is where the spaghetti is. It's rather clever. You cook a little more than half a box, um, call it five or six ounces of spaghetti (150 to 200 g), to edibility. You rinse that with cold water, to cool the noodles down. You pour in two well-beaten eggs, and three tablespoons or so of grated Parmesan cheese. Then you line a pie plate with it. Basically, what you're making is a durum starch fiber composite embedded in an albumen-casein matrix. When it cooks, it will be much stronger than either a spaghetti mat or an omelette. So I did; and by that point, the sauce had thickened considerably, solids held together by thick liquid, combined into a melodious whole.
paulatim singula viresI set the oven to 350 F (175 C), poured the hot meat sauce into the crust -- yes, with the raw egg; never fear, it will cook thoroughly -- sprinkled some more Parmesan cheese on top, and put the pie in the oven for about twenty-five minutes. This is a pie you eat straight from the oven. I already knew it would be good, because I had been picking mushrooms from the sauce (under the pretense of 'adjusting the seasoning') while I was watching the spaghetti cook. And it was good. Many thanks to Carrie for the suggestion! PS This may be my last pie for a while. I am suffering a little from pie burn-out. On the other hand, I've lost 3 kg since I started, so maybe I should get a diet book contract.
deperdunt proprias, color est e pluribus unus