Macarounia dou forno - The Cypriot pasta bake
Macarounia dou forno, or Pastichio as it is called in Greece is a firm favourite in most Cypriot households.
Layers of pasta, in a rich pork ragu sauce with flavours of parsley, cinnamon and mint, and topped with a creamy halloumi bechmel which is then baked in the oven to go nice and crunchy on top!
Translating literally as Macaroni in the oven (inventive name huh?) it can be time consuming to make, but trust me, its well worth the effort!
The recipe below is Mama Christoforous, the one she learnt from my Yiayia Maria, who was a fabulous cook, and the one she taught me to make - i never minded helping in the kitchen for this one because it meant i got to eat the leftover cheese sauce at the end, which was always my favourite bit!
It's so well loved its become a staple on my Supper club menu!
The Greek Pastitsio and the Cypriot Macarounia dou forno have some key diferences, and for me these are the things I love about it
It freezes well too, so I often make a double batch and then when I'm having a 'I really cannot be bothered to cook' few days I just get it out the freezer and its good to go!
In this Cypriot dish - as in much Cypriot cooking, we use pork instead of beef or lamb, We also have mint and cinnamon as our main flavour profiles in the Ragu, which pair perfectly with the cream sauce.
Plus for this Cypriot bechmel - well, its all about Halloumi!
Traditionally this dish calls for long tubular pasta such as Misko no2 or 3, which is a long tubular thin pasta which creates fabulous layers, but outside of London in the UK this can be hard to find, if you cant get any then any pasta shape will do, it works with penne, shells, macaroni etc, and all will taste delicious!
Difficulty : Medium/Hard
400g minced pork
1 teaspoon Ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons dried Mint
1 small onion - chopped
Handful fresh parsley - chopped
Salt and pepper.
1 large tin chopped tomatoes or passatta
200g halloumi - grated fine
1 pint whole/semi milk plus a little extra just in case
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Approx 3-4 tablespoons plain flour (approx 50-60g)
300g pasta (penne, shells,rigatoni or macaroni work best in place of the Pastichio pasta - see above)
1 chicken or veg stock cube
2 bay leaves.
Oven dish - this can be cast iron, glass or ceramic, whatever you have at home that's fairly deep.
Oven at 200
1 – Pop the kettle on to boil, once done fill one saucepan with the water and add a stock cube to the pan, once dissolved add the pasta to cook until al-dente
2 - Heat a large frying pan and add a little oil, saute the onions till they start to often and go translucent then add the pork mince. Break the mince up and stir every now and then till it starts to brown
3 - Once browned add the mint, cinnamon and chopped fresh parsley, followed by the tin of chopped tomatoes, stir well and set aside.
4 – Once the pasta is cooked drain it well, at this point you have 2 options
Option 1 - mix the pasta and the meat together and
pour into the bottom f the oven dish
Option 2 - Put half the pasta in the oven dish and then top with a layer of the meat sauce, then put the rest of the pasta on top in another layer. This is the traditional way, but as both taste the same, go with whatever you find easiest.
5 - Rinse out the pan that had the pasta in it (or get a clean one) and melt the butter completely
6 - With the heat on low stir in the flour a tablespoon at a time and keep stirring with the whisk so nothing sticks to the bottom, then pour in the milk, again stirring constantly so that there are no lumps formed, pop in the bay leaves, the ground nutmeg and a pinch of pepper, simmer on low for a minute or 2, adding more milk if the sauce gets too thick (you want the consistency of double cream)
7 - Add in 2/3 of the grated the halloumi and pepper - the key to a good smooth sauce is do not stop whisking.
8 - Pour this evenly on top of the pasta and top with the remaining grated halloumi
9 - Pop in the oven for 20 - 25 mins till its well browned on top and serve!
Enjoy (we know you will)