You may be thinking to yourself – why is this called macaroni when it’s clearly linguine in the picture? Well, that’s because Persians call all forms of pasta “macaroni” – spaghetti, fettucine, penne, fusilli – it’s all macaroni to them. Just like how all soda pop is “Pepsi” and all diapers are “Pampers” to Persians.
The other day, our very dear family friend Malak-joon dropped by my house for lunch. As a child, I spent many weekends at her house playing with her daughter Mitra (who is still one of my best friends). Malak-joon is an incredible cook. The one dish I always looked forward to was her Macaroni (she also made an incredible lasagna!). Pasta with a savoury “Persian” style meat sauce and a crunchy golden potato crust (Ta-dig). The crust was always the best part – delicious, crispy and slightly chewy at the same time. It was a dish that my mother never prepared, so it was always a treat to go to Malak-joon’s house to have it.
Our trip down memory lane inspired me to make Persian Macaroni for my own family. Malak-joon gave me basic instructions and I attempted to make a version for my husband and daughter. It was a great success – my picky three year old who hates anything with sauce, loved it – to me that’s the ultimate victory!
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp turmeric
1 lb lean ground beef
4 heaping tbsp tomato paste
2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock or water
500 grams dried spaghetti or linguine*
1 large potato, sliced
salt & pepper
Heat 3 tbsp of canola oil in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, fry the onions, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until soft and golden. Add the turmeric and fry for another minute.
Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the ground beef. Brown the meat well for about 10 minutes. Here is a tip I learned from a professional chef about browning beef…….when you put in the meat into the hot pan break it up slightly, let it brown for a minute without touching it then break it up some more, let it brown for a minute and so on. The reason to do it this way is that if you stir it around too much in the beginning the meat will release all its juices and it will end up just boiling in its juices instead of browning.
Add the tomato paste and fry for about 2-3 minutes.
Add water or chicken stock, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. When boiling turn heat down to low and cover. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste the sauce and season with more salt and pepper if needed.
In another large pot bring 5 litres of salted water to a boil. Break the spaghetti in half and add to the water. Boil for the amount of time indicated on the package, usually 11 minutes for spaghetti or linguine. Drain pasta and mix with meat sauce.
Pour enough canola oil in a non-stick pot to cover the bottom of the pot. Turn the heat to slightly above medium. Add 2 tbsp water. Spread potato slices over the bottom and gently spread the pasta over the potatoes.
Cover and cook for 8 minutes. Pour 1/4 cup water over the pasta. Cover the lid with a clean dish towel. Turn the heat down to low and cook for another 30 minutes.
When ready, invert onto a serving dish and enjoy!
*You may use any pasta you wish……some people make this with penne, rigatoni or even macaroni!