Very-sort Of Cypriot Pasticcio – Transportable Meal To Give Your Hosts A ‘Meal Off’
“Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year.”Victor Borge
Many people go to stay with others around Christmas and it’s helpful to be able to produce a meal to save your hosts from grinding away in the kitchen. This dish, composed of macaroni and minced lamb, once made, travels well and is easy to reheat on arrival. If you make it and transport it in a disposable baking tray all the better. You just need to remember to take with you a bottle of marsala (you can decant a smaller amount into a hipflask it that’s more convenient – you only need a few tablespoons) and some foil. It’s also possible to substitute the macaroni for other pasta such as penne.
If you are worried that the pasta isn’t as healthy as you might want consider the fact that a study conducted for a BBC programme has revealed that pasta which has been cooked, then allowed to cool, then reheated is better for you than ‘fresh out of the boiling water’ pasta. Why? Because pasta is a simple carbohydrate which breaks down rapidly into sugars causing a rise in blood sugar. But by allowing it to cool down it becomes a resistant starch and acts more like fibre. Reheating further reduces the blood sugar rise by 50% compared to ‘fresh’ pasta. So you can eat this and feel smug!
This isn’t really pasticcio, it’s more of a Cypriot makaronia tou fournou, and even then…
You can also feel smug because an authentic pasticcio includes béchamel – so this is an altogether healthier and less stodgy version. In fact this is not really anything like the original pasticcio (or pastitsio – it gets transcribed from the Green in various ways) which is basically mince, topped with béchamel sauce, which is in turn topped with grated cheese. It’s in Cyprus that they add the pasta and the dish becomes makaronia tou fournou. But to be really authentically Cypriot, it would need Halloumi cheese, of course, and cinnamon.
Serve this with sort of Greek salad which is just as transportable.
This dish does not freeze well.
Recipe for sort of Cypriot pasticcio
- 1 large red onion, peeled and chopped small
- 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 350g/12 oz good quality minced lamb (or veal or beef)
- 50g/2 oz smoked bacon lardons, or a couple of rashers of bacon chopped, or simply an additional 50g of mince
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- zest and juice of half a small lemon (you need the other half for the dressing, for the sort-of Greek salad)
- 300g/11 oz baby plum tomatoes – or a 250g/10 oz tin of plum tomatoes, including all the juice.
- 1 chicken stock cube, dissolved in 240ml/1 cup of hot water
- about fifteen mint leaves
- 200g/7 oz/2 cups dry macaroni
- 200g/7 oz – one pack – feta cheese (Greek not Danish) – not essential, but it does really improve it – you can divide the feta, putting some on the pasticcio and the rest on the Greek salad
- 6 tbsp marsala, or red vermouth (or, if you are being very correct, which this recipe isn’t, mavrodaphne, which is the greek equivalent of marsala) …. or more for warming up
- preheat the oven to 180ºC.
- fry the onion and garlic in a large saucepan until translucent.
- add the mince and the bacon.
- add the oregano, the tomato puree, half the marsala, the lemon juice and some salt and pepper.
- stir well, cover, and put in the oven for half an hour.
- cook the pasta in lots of boiling water for half the time it says on the cut the tomatoes into quarters, add to the meat.
- drain the pasta, add to the meat.
- fold the mint leaves over in your fingers and cut with kitchen scissors into thin shreds, dropping them straight into the meat mixture.
- add the stock and the zest.
- put the lid back on and cook for another twenty minutes (or maybe a little less bearing in mind you will be reheating the pasta when you warm it up).
At this point you can freeze, or keep in the fridge for a day or so, then, on arrival:
- preheat the oven to 180ºC.
- heat the dish up in the oven for about ten minutes – without the foil – but keep the foil and put it back on if it starts to look a bit dry…also add more hooch!
- then crumble over the feta (if using), and return to the oven for another ten minutes or so – until the feta starts to turn golden and begins to melt…wonderful!