The premise for this rustic pie is so intuitively sound, so solid, I wish I had thought of it myself. What could be more comforting than sandwiching spicy Italian sausage and rapini between soft, smooth layers of mashed potatoes and baking the whole mass together until steaming hot? When I found this recipe it immediately resonated with me, a whole meal in a pan, replete with meat, veggies and potatoes!
Rapini is sometimes referred to as brocolli rabe and it has a more assertive peppery bite than brocolli. You may, however, substitute brocolli if you wish. Having made this a number of times and savouring each encounter with it, I cannot stop my imagination from inventing some new fillings to layer between the mashed potatoes: sauteed mushrooms and spinach, roasted tomatoes, a meaty beef ragout, thick stewed beans, leftover chicken, anything with a fair bit of solidity that will hold together when cut. Pile on the filling generously as the potatoes can dominate otherwise. Try the recipe as written first. Then, let your imagination carry you forward. Gattos are rustic, homestyle potato casseroles found in Southern Italian kitchens.
Gatto - Italian Sausage, Rapini and Potato Pie
4 pounds all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks; 1 cup Parmigiano cheese; 3/4 cup milk; 2 eggs, beaten; 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil; 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped; 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes; 2 bunches rapini, stems removed; 2+1/2 tsp. kosher salt; 1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed; 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pea-sized pieces; 12 ounces asiago cheese, shredded; freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Put the potatoes in a large pot with enough cold water to cover them by a few inches. Salt the water well, bring to a boil over high heat and cook the potatoes until tender. Drain well.
Mash the potatoes with a potato masher, stirring in the butter, the Parmigiano cheese, milk and eggs.
In a large skillet, combine olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes over low heat. When the garlic is fragrant but has not changed colour, add the rapini and season it with about 1/2 tsp. salt. Toss the rapini in the oil and cook over higher heat until tender. Cool and chop coarsely. Set aside.
In another skillet saute the crumbled sausage, continually breaking it up with the side of a wooden spoon until it has lost all its rawness. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Oil a 9x13 inch baking pan and spoon about half of the potatoes into the pan, pressing and smoothing this layer with your hands until it is even. Arrange an even layer of sausage over the potatoes and then an even layer of rapini. Sprinkle shredded Asiago cheese evenly over the rapini. Season with black pepper and then spoon the remaining potatoes over the top, again using your hands to smooth them into an even layer. Use the tines of a fork to draw decorate lines on the layer of potatoes.
Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top is golden. Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting into squares and serving. This dish reheats very well but should not be frozen.
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