For the bread:
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling, or softened butter
- 10-12 slices white bread or whole grain bread, sliced 1-inch thick (stale is not only fine but preferred)
For the sauce:
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, pork and veal or chopped crimini mushrooms
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 rib celery, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- A few grates of nutmeg
- A pinch of cloves
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 pound Fontina Val D’Aosta cheese or other easy-melting Italian cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
- Grease a casserole dish with EVOO or butter and pre-heat the oven to 400ºF. Arrange the bread slices in a casserole dish in a tight-fitting layer.
- Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons EVOO, a couple of turns of the pan, in a saucepot over medium-high heat. Add the meat or mushrooms and brown well. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and season with salt, pepper and the bay leaf. Cook to soften, then add the tomato paste, nutmeg and cloves. Stir in the stock and bring to a bubble. Add the milk and simmer for 30 minutes to thicken.
- Spoon the sauce over the bread and top with the cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and brown. Serve in shallow bowls with sautéed kale or a dark greens salad alongside.