There is a Maltese dish which is loved by all Maltese kids that I know. Its commonly called “Macaroni” and is an amazing dish that uses tinned corned beef, tomatoes, eggs, cheese and pasta to create a mouth wateringly simple dish that is in its own world. Since I have moved to more ethical food choices, it is probably the dish I miss the most. It reminds me of my childhood, and my grandma, and the textures of the dish are just so fantastic, that you cant even begin to understand unless you have some!
This vegetable pasta bake was my attempt at finding a good substitute for “macaroni”, but sadly it failed by comparison. Don’t get me wrong, its a lovely dish in its own right, but its no macaroni. Regardless of my disappointment, it was till lovely and deserves a moment in the spotlight. (But if you know how I can possibly eat beef and still be ethical, Id love to hear from you.. *sob sigh*).
[ Serves: 6 | Time: 1hr 30min | Cost: $8 ]
1 packet macaroni pasta
1 tin tomatoes
2 celery sticks
½ red capsicum
½ ltr vegetable stock
1 cup grated pecorino cheese
handful Italian parsley
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
4 bay leaves
splash olive oil
- Chop all vegetables into bite size pieces. (See photo 1 below for a guide). Add the oil to a pan and bring up to temperature. Sauté the garlic and onions until cooked. De-glaze the pan with the wine and cook off before adding the rest of the vegetables, tomatoes and herbs. Add the stock and bring to a slow simmer. Simmer over a low temperature for an hour.
- In a large pot, bring 2 – 3 litres of water to the boil (photo 2 below). Add a good pinch of salt before adding the pasta. Cook for 10 minutes, but check the pasta frequently. It is very important not to over cook the pasta. It should be removed and rinsed in water when ALMOST but not quite al dente. (Yup, that’s right – slightly undercooked!)
- After an hour, the vegetables should be cooked, and the sauce should have condensed (photo 3 below). Remove from the heat. At this stage, discard the bay leaves and olives.
- In a large baking tray, carefully mix the vegetable sauce and pasta together. Beat the eggs and pour gently over the top. Sprinkle with cheese and gently turn through – do not over mix.
- Bake in a moderate oven for 20 – 30 minutes. It is ready when the top is crispy but the pasta underneath is cooked to perfection and still moist and soft. Devour instantly!
- This type of pasta is very difficult to get. I certainly cant get it here in Ballina. It is usually available from continental grocery stores or produce markets. When I go to Sydney, I buy about 15 packets.
- Diabetic Note: I have to admit, my BGLs were a little high. Just a teeny weeny bit. Perhaps have a small serving of pasta and a salad on the side if you are really worried. Be careful of your oil – its very easy for a splash of olive oil to end up as a guzzle.
- Ethical Note: It frustrates me a lot that its very difficult to get Australian made macaroni pasta. The carbon miles of Italian pasta (regardless of how delicious it is) makes me shudder. The moment I find a more local substitute, I will switch.