I read a book review of a biography of Casanova that happened to mention that, “he liked his macaroni sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.”
That set me on a mission. I wanted to know how this was prepared. Macaroni by itself, even sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, will just dry out. So was it prepared with butter? Was it macaroni and cheese sprinkled with the goodness? What was it?
I pondered, I Googled, I asked my email groups, I beat my head into the monitor until bits of brain and LED goo were splattered all over the walls (OK, I made that last one up, but that’s what it felt like!), and finally I found some leads on what might possibly replicate the elusive dish.
So, working on limited time and a limited budget, I decided to give it a go, totaling faking it at the last minute mostly with what I had on hand and making a quick run to the grocery store (about ½ mile away at most) for some gnocchi.
I’ve never made a better, spur of the moment, bad decision in my life (OK, I probably have, but that’s none of your business!). Based on what I gleaned from these recipes here is what I created:
2 cups milk
16 oz package gnocchi
8oz medium cheddar (grated)
½ stock butter
Preheat oven to 350. Heat milk to just boiling. Meanwhile, sprinkle bottom of baking dish with cheese, cinnamon, and sugar. Add gnocchi to heated milk and simmer or warm for 3 minutes. Do not drain. Spoon about half of the gnocchi and milk on top of cheese mixture. Top as evenly as possible with pats of butter. Top with cheese, cinnamon, and sugar. Add the rest of the gnocchi and milk. Top with pats of butter and cheese, cinnamon, and sugar again. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
It was so good!!!
Next time I plan to use a more appropriate hard cheese and top it with braised meat, as suggested. From my reading, the milk can be left out when meat is served on top.
Unlike most dishes, this did not improve after sitting overnight. It was best the first day and made for mediocre leftovers which required salting, which was not necessary on the fresh serving.
In my research I learned that, at one time (in the 1500’s), pasta was almost always heavily sweetened, and that cinnamon was a common spice to add to pasta dishes. The interesting thing about that is that we now know that cinnamon helps the body properly metabolize sugar and may even help with some types of diabetes.
The recipes I found seem to be from the 1500’s. Casanova lived in the 1700’s. I still want to know exactly what it was he was eating!