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Isabella De Sabata’s Italian Gratin

My mother is an excellent cook and, having grown up during the war, had a horror of wasting food. I learned by eating her inventive leftover re-elaborations which ingredients combine well, and having inherited her attitude towards food waste, I have continued to invent dishes with whatever is in the fridge or the larder. Admittedly, not all have been unqualified successes (a spelt base pizza which resembled a pavement covered in cheese a notable failure) , but this is something which can be made with almost anything lying around your freezer. The cheese topping alone makes it moreish as well as comforting.


1 medium onion, sliced very finely - I used my terrifying mandolin (see what I have done here?) on n 1 setting (the finest)

1 largish potato – or a couple of smaller ones, sliced thinly as well

Any odd old  bits of cheese, cubed

Some mushrooms fried in butter

Leftover sausages , smashed up in a kitchen mixer (the Italian kind, pure meat) but it could be cubed pancetta/chorizo/streaky bacon or omit for a veggie option

Grated parmesan or Emmenthal (or both, or any other cheese you have that can be grated)



fry the mushrooms in butter and garlic, with some thyme (or sage) if you have some and add the sausage meat at the end and mix all together well. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Melt a knob of butter in an oven proof dish and coat it well.

Put a layer of the sliced onions at the bottom, then one layer of sliced potatoes, then a layer of the mushroom/sausage mix and add some of the cheese bits. Repeat till you have used up all the ingredients, but make sure you have a lawyer of potatoes at the top. Pour some cream over it – about 1 cup should be plenty. 

Cover with grated cheese, and put in the oven for about 40’ or until it looks golden. 

This quantity makes enough for 2 as a side dish, or plenty for 1 as a full meal. 


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I adored these as a child, and now my own family gets very excited polishes them off in no time! They can make an easy dinner when feeding a crowd, as a lot of the prep can be done beforehand. They’re

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