Dish: Macaroni Bechamel
Cooking Time: 1.5 hours
Best for: Weeknight dinner – can be made ahead of time & refrigerated
2 boxes penne pasta (~16 ounce
4 lbs ground beef
2 medium onions
4 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cans tomato sauce (~16 ounce)
4 tablespoons raisins (optional)
2 dashes of parmesan cheese (optional)
For the sauce:
16 cups cold milk
1.5 sticks butter (~12 tablespoons)
12 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons of fresh thyme
salt, white pepper, black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin (optional)
1 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
Cook the pasta according to the box instructions. Drain well under a cold water rinse & set aside. Chop onions and parsley and mince the garlic. Beat the eggs separately for the pasta & the sauce. Set the oven to 400F.
In a large frying pan (I use a wok), sauté the onion and garlic in a little oil over medium heat until soft. Add ground beef, sauté until brown & drain off the fat. Place back on the heat and add parsley, thyme, and cinnamon – stir well. Add tomato sauce & simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in raisins & remove from heat to cool. Once cooled, add the eggs & set aside.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add flour & whisk till smooth and there is no lump. Add the milk slowly while continue to whisk. Add salt, white pepper, black pepper, and cumin to taste. Continue whisking until the milk starts to boil. Add thyme & nutmeg – stir well. Whisk in the eggs until mixed in. Remove from heat & set aside.
Mix half of the sauce with the pasta, stir well until the pasta is properly coated. Place half of the pasta in a baking dish and pour the meat mixture on top of it. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and layer in the rest of the pasta. Pour the remaining sauce on top of the pasta & bake for 45-60 minutes until the top layer is golden brown. Setting the oven to broil in the last few minutes will give a nice brown coating to the top layer
DO YOU KNOW ...
One of the yummiest ways to eat pasta, macaroni béchamel is very popular in Egypt. While baked pasta dishes are common to the Mediterranean regions, Egyptians made this dish their own by adding raisins to the meat mixture and cumin to the béchamel sauce. Dating back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, this dish often get served at palace nobilities’ banquets. Today, macaroni béchamel is still prepared for festivities, special occasions, religious holidays, and special Sunday dinners. It allows the chef to be creative as one can make this dish with any pasta – think penne, rigatoni, or macaroni – and any meat – think beef, pork, lamb, or veal. Enriched with eggs, cheese, and rich & luscious meat sauce, this pasta bake is infinitely limited only by imagination.
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