Tag: Pasta Bake Tradition

Legendary Dishes | Pastitsio (pasta bake)

CAUCASUS CYPRUS GREECE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN

Tourists visiting the Mediterranean islands of Crete, Cyprus, Malta, Sicily and Sardinia might be forgiven for thinking there is an ad hoc competition among their restaurants to see who produces the best pasta bake. The Greeks of course will tell you their pastitsio is the best and the rest are mere imitations.

And there is the dilemma, each chef – domestic and professional – has their own interpretation, albeit subtle tweaks that are not always discernable.

We have favoured an eastern Mediterranean sensibility with cheese custard for the topping rather than a white sauce, thick tube pasta cooked and dressed with eggs and cheese, and a meat filling flavoured with onion, marjoram, mint, parsley and thyme.

Pasta

  • 500 g penne / rigatoni pasta
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 90 g hard cheese
  • 60 g butter
  • 5 g black pepper
  • Salt, large pinch
  • 2 gratings of nutmeg

Meat

  • 750 g beef / lamb / pork mince
  • 250 g onion, thin sliced
  • 125 ml meat stock
  • 45 ml dry white wine
  • 30 ml vegetable oil
  • 5 g black pepper
  • 5 g salt
  • 5 sprigs parsley, chopped small
  • 10 mint leaves, chopped small
  • 5 sprigs marjoram
  • 5 sprigs thyme

Topping

  • 1 litre full-fat milk
  • 500 g halloumi cheese, grated
  • 4 eggs, whisked
  • 45 g cornflour
  • 30 ml water

Finish

  • 90 g kefalotiri cheese / hard cheese, grated
  • Butter, for greasing

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, drain and place in a large bowl. Melt butter and pour over the pasta. Add the cheese and seasonings, toss, add eggs and toss again. Set aside.

Sauté onion in oil for 10 minutes, add the meat and cook until brown. Add the wine, stock, herbs and seasonings, simmer for 20 minutes until almost all of the liquid has been reduced. Leave to cool.

Whisk the eggs and milk for the topping in a pot, bring slowly to the boil. Whisk the water into the cornflour, pour slowly into the egg-milk mixture, heat gradually until the mixture begins to thicken, add the cheese.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Grease a large baking tray, place half of the pasta mixture on the bottom, follow with the meat mixture, the remaining pasta mixture and the cheese custard. Sprinkle the top with the grated hard cheese.

Bake for 50 minutes.


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.