You may remember a few weeks ago I was talking about making dishes of food for a grieving family? Well today’s dish is along the same chain of thought – comfort food. This dish, commonly refereed to as Macaroni by Maltese people, is a family favourite. It is carb heavy, delicious and just what the doctor ordered when morale is low. There is nothing that brings warmth, comfort and nourishment like Macaroni. Nothing!
There is, however, one important draw back of this dish. It uses tinned corned beef which is a staple meat product in Maltese cuisine. As my regular readers would know, I don’t cook with beef because of the environmental issues associated with beef production. (Read this article for more information). There really is no substitute for it and I have tried to make a vegetarian option of this dish that was a total failure.
So I bring you my ethical dilemma - Maltese Macaroni.
Maltese Macaroni – to me this is made of winning, and tastes of all things good.
[ SERVES: 6 | TIME: 90 MINUTES | COST: $10 ]
[ JOES RATING: 5 / 5 | MY RATING: 5 / 5 | Brittanys RATING: 5 / 5 ]
1 packet macaroni pasta ¹
1 tin hamper corned beef
1 tin tomatoes, chopped
1 small tin tomato paste
1 onion, diced finely
1 cup Pecorino cheese, grated
¼ cup continental parsley, chopped
4 – 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon basil, fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon oregano, fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 bay leaves
2 free ranged / organic eggs
salt and pepper to taste
dash of olive oil
- Bring a large pot to the boil with about 6 – 8 litres of water. Add a good pinch of salt to the water before adding the pasta. Cook the pasta until half-cooked – it should still be quite firm and undercooked ². Drain, rinse and set aside.
- In a large frying pan at moderate heat, sauté the onion and garlic in a dash of oil until caramelised. Add the corned beef and stir well until the well incorporated and melted to a liquid like consistency. Add the tinned tomatoes, bay leaves, parsley, basil, oregano and a little seasoning. Stir and let simmer for 15 – 30 minutes until slightly thickened and rich in flavour.
This last photo is of the sauce sauteing. It has not yet been thickened but I don’t thicken it very much at all past this point. It needs to still be quite thin. See note ² in observations below.
- After the sauce has simmered and reduced slightly, taste for seasoning. If the sauce tastes sweet, add the curry powder ³. Thicken with tomato paste ². Remove bay leaves.
- Preheat oven to 200°C.
- In a very large baking tray, add the pasta and sauce, mixing well to incorporate evenly throughout the tray.
- Add the cheese evenly throughout and mix lightly.
- Lightly beat the egg and drizzle throughout the tray. Move the egg lightly throughout the dish with a fork – do not over mix at this point.
- Cover the baking tray with aluminium foil and bake in a moderate oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and cook until the top layer of pasta is crunchy and well cooked.
This is time-lapse photos of the pasta cooking.
- Note ¹ The type of pasta we use for this dish can be difficult to obtain out of large cities. It is very long tubes of pasta that are quite thick and hold their form without collapsing when cooked. By using this sort of pasta, the egg, sauce and cheese can run into the pasta tubes and each bite is mouth-watering delicious.
This is the pasta that I use. Note how thick and long the pieces are in this 20 litre boiling pot?
- Note ² If you hit al dente during the boiling portion of the cooking, you have over cooked the pasta. You want it to be about half-cooked so when you bite it, it still is really very firm and raw towards the middle but not hard and uncooked. The cooking process will be finished off during the baking phase. This is why it is very important not to over thicken the sauce – the liquid is going to be absorbed by the pasta to finish off the cooking process during the baking phase.
- Note ³ Sometimes, I find the fresh herbs bring a unique sweetness to the dish that is not always desirable. Traditionally, curry powder is incorporated to bring a balance to the dish. Let your taste buds guide you on this.
- The flavour of this dish is excellent. Sometimes, though, I add an extra egg if the sauce looks too dry. Be warned, though - don’t make it too eggy!
- I only use good quality grated Romano Pecorino for this dish. If I am making it for the uneducated, I may use tasty cheese just because its cheaper. At the end of the day, though, the Pecorino adds something special to the dish so if possible, opt for quality. If you like things a bit on the cheesy side of life, then go ahead and add more cheese to the dish.
- Diabetic Note: I eat this dish and ask, “Why are the gods so cruel?”. There is NOTHING like this dish. I absolutely adore it. It is all things good and homely to me. Of course, it is also carbohydrate heavy which is the diabetics nightmare. The pasta is about 70% carbohydrates and while there is little to no carbs in the rest of the ingredients, a good diabetic should limit their portion size on this meal. Luckily for me, I’m a bad diabetic…
Ok, so this portion might feed two diabetics. (Or one bad diabetic…)
- Ethical Note: As I said above, this is a family favourite. When we stopped eating beef two years ago, this is one dish I truly missed. Although I have tried to make vegetarian versions of this dish, they fail miserably. This is the first time I’ve cooked it in two years, and it was a real ethical dilemma for me. Joe and I recently discussed minor transgressions with beef to balance diet ect, and we both agreed on one thing. If everyone reduced their beef intake to perhaps one meal a week, our environment would be so much healthier. Being conscious of the impacts of your meal is the first step to a healthier environment.
I found this excellent photo of Maltese Macaroni on Wikipedia. See how the sauce ends up thick cause the pasta absorbs the liquid. Note how it holds its form? All hallmark signs of a good macaroni! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)