Islands | Mediterranean | Macaroni Bake Tradition

Crete | Cyprus | Malta | Sicily | Sardinia
Macaroni Pastitsio

Tourists visiting the Mediterranean islands of Crete, Cyprus, Malta, Sicily and Sardinia might be forgiven for thinking there is an unofficial competition among their restaurants to see who produces the best macaroni dish.

The Greeks of course will tell you their Macaroni Pastitsio is the best baked macaroni and the rest are mere imitations, so decide for yourself.

900 ml béchamel sauce
500 g macaroni, cooked al dente
650 g lean mince – beef, lamb, pork
350 g halloumi cheese, grated
60 g parsley, chopped
1 onion, chopped
Salt
Pepper
Butter, for greasing
Sunflower oil, for frying
Water, for boiling pasta and for meat

In a wide frying pan brown meat in oil, stir in onion, season, add sufficient water to cover the meat, simmer for 15 minutes until the water has evaporated, and the meat is soft. Add parsley. Cook and drain macaroni. Remove pan from heat, add a handful of cheese.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Put a layer of macaroni in a greased deep casserole dish, sprinkle with cheese followed by several tablespoons of the meat mixture. Repeat until the macaroni, cheese and meat is used up. Pour béchamel on top, and bake for 45 minutes.

Macaroni – Cyprus
500 g macaroni
500 g pork, minced
250 g halloumi cheese, grated
30 g dried / fresh mint
1 onion, chopped
10 g cinnamon
Béchamel sauce (optional)
Nutmeg, pinch (optional)
Parsley, large pinch
Salt, large pinch
Pepper, large pinch
Butter, for greasing
Sunflower oil, for frying
Water, for boiling pasta

In a wide frying pan brown meat in oil, season with cinnamon, mint, parsley, salt and pepper.

Cook and drain macaroni.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Put a thick layer of macaroni in a greased deep casserole dish, add a layer of the meat mixture. Alternate until both macaroni and meat are used up. The béchamel sauce is optional. Finish with cheese, and a thin grating of nutmeg. Bake for 45 minutes, then leave to rest for 30 minutes. Cut into squares and serve with salad.

Imqarrun il-forn – Malta (new version)
500 g macaroni / penne, cooked al dente
500 g beef and pork, minced
3 eggs, beaten
60 g parmigiano cheese, grated
60 g tomato paste
2 onions, chopped
Salt
Pepper
Water, for boiling pasta and for meat
Butter, for greasing
Sunflower oil, for frying

In a deep saucepan fry onion in oil for five minutes over a high heat, add meat, brown, then add tomato paste and a sufficient amount of water to cover meat. Turn heat down, simmer for 15 minutes.

Cook and drain macaroni.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Stir macaroni into meat mixture, add eggs followed by the cheese and seasonings. Pour into greased deep casserole dish, season and top with cheese. Bake for 45 minutes until the topping is golden brown.

Timpalla / Timpana – Sicily / Malta

A traditional timpana is made with breadcrumbs, butter, carrots, celery, macaroni, mushrooms, onions, parmigiano, pork fat, and tomato sauce.

The vegetables except the mushrooms are fried in the fat and made into a sauce with the cheese. The macaroni, mushrooms and sauce are layered in a buttered breadcrumb coated baking dish, baked in a slow oven.

In Malta, with the Sicilian influence, they make this version.

750 g puff pastry
500 g bacon, minced
500 g beef, minced
500 g macaroni / penne, cooked al dente
400 g tomatoes
125 ml chicken / beef stock
3 eggs, beaten
90 g grano padano cheese, grated
2 onions, diced
45 g tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
Nutmeg, grated
Salt
Pepper
1 egg, for glazing
Olive oil, for frying

Preheat the oven to 220°C. In a deep saucepan sauté onions, garlic and a bay leaf in oil for five minutes over a low heat, add the bacon followed by beef mince. Cook for 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, stock and tomato paste followed by the seasonings and nutmeg. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Cook and drain macaroni.

Stir macaroni into meat mixture, add eggs followed by the cheese. Pour into a greased baking tray, cover with pastry allowing some overlap. Glaze the top and edges with beaten egg. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 180°C, bake for a further 30 minutes.

Minestre Asciutte – Sardinia
750 g lamb / pork pieces
500 g macaroni
250 g tomatoes, chopped
125 g game stock
100 g cottage cheese
50 g garlic, chopped
30 g lamb / pork fat
Salt
Pepper

Blanch macaroni in boiling salted water for three minutes. Drain. Put the fat in a saucepan over a high heat, toss in the macaroni and quickly coat it with the fat. Add meat, garlic, tomatoes and cheese with the game stock, simmer until meat and macaroni are tender.

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