Legendary Dishes | Imqarrun il-forn (pasta bake)

MALTA

The Maltese version of the Mediterranean pasta bake is unique because of the variable ingredients in the countless versions of the traditional recipe. These include aubergine, pea, pumpkin and tomato for a vegetarian version plus bacon and chicken liver for an enriched meat version. The liver gives the dish an enhanced depth of flavour. Cheese, hard and soft, feature prominently, and ricotta is favoured alongside Italian hard cheese.

Version 1

  • 500 g maccheroni nº37 / rigatoni, cooked al dente
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 250 g semi-hard cheese, grated
  • 200 g beef mince
  • 200 g bacon, diced
  • 200 g chicken livers, diced
  • 200 g pork mince
  • 150 ml chicken jelly / beef stock
  • 100 g onions, chopped
  • 60 g tomato paste
  • 15 g butter
  • 50 g parmigiano cheese, grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Preheat oven to 180°C.

In a deep saucepan sauté onions and garlic in oil for five minutes over a low heat, add the bacon followed by the pork mince and the beef mince. Cook for ten minutes. Add the livers, stir and cook for five minutes.

Pour in stock, bring to boil, simmer for 20 minutes, then add tomato paste and purée. Remove from heat.

Cook and drain pasta. Rinse in cold water to arrest the cooking process, then combine it with the meat mixture.

Stir the half of the cheese into the eggs with some seasonings. Add to the meat and pasta mixture.

Pour pasta mixture into a greased deep casserole dish, season and top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes until the topping is golden brown.


Version 2

Without the garlic and liver this version is suitable for children.

  • 500 g long macaroni
  • 500 g passata
  • 500 g ricotta
  • 5 eggs + 2 eggs hard-boiled, chopped
  • 300 g pork mince
  • 300 g hard cheese, grated
  • 200 g beef mince
  • 200 g bacon, chopped small
  • 100 g chicken liver, chopped small (optional)
  • 100 g water
  • 60 g tomato paste
  • 30 g sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, mashed (optional)
  • 15 g black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

In a large frying pan pour in the passata, tomato paste, and water add the beef mince and pork mince followed a few minutes later by the bacon and, if using, chicken liver and, if using, garlic, bring to a low boil, reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes.

Set aside to cool

Cook the macaroni until al dente.

Drain macaroni and rinse in cold water, mix with the sauce.

Preheat oven to 180ºC.

In a large bowl beat the eggs vigorously, add 200 g of the cheese, grind in the pepper, add the salt and the ricotta, mix.

Blend cheese-egg mixture with the macaroni mixture.

Pour into a large casserole dish.

Spread the hard-boiled eggs on top, cover with remaining grated cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes.


Imqarrun il-forn
Refried

This pasta bake can be reheated with a little water in a covered casserole dish, but it is easily refried in a large frying pan with a small amount of oil and given a crispy surface under the grill.