Egyptian macaroni bechamel is definitely one of those dishes that personifies comfort food through and through. Layered with a white sauce and ground meat and made in one dish is every home cooks dream. Macaroni Béchamel is perfect in every way because it includes protein, starch and dairy.
What is macaroni béchamel?
Macaroni bechamel (or macarona bechamel) is the Egyptian version, most likely based on a Greek recipe. It is typically made with penne or macaroni pasta, a layer of cooked spiced beef, tomatoes or tomato sauce, and béchamel sauce, sometimes with egg or cheese.
The actual Greek version is known as pastitsio (Greek: παστίτσιο, pastítsio), sometimes spelled pastichio and it is a Greek baked pasta dish with ground meat and béchamel sauce.
The typical Greek version has a bottom layer that is bucatini or other tubular pasta, with cheese and/or egg as a binder; a middle layer of ground beef, or a mix of ground beef and ground pork with tomato sauce, cinnamon and cloves. Other spices like nutmeg or allspice are used in the top layer that is a flour-based béchamel or a béchamel with cheese (known as Mornay sauce in France). Grated goat cheese is often sprinkled on top. Pastitsio is a common dish, and is often served as a main course, with a salad.
History of the Béchamel sauce
As the housewife in the 17th Century did not have the luxury of modern refrigeration, they were wary of using milk in their recipes. Peddlers were known to sell watered down or rancid produce. Basically, only the rich or royalty could use milk in their sauces.
Béchamel sauce was invented by Duke Philippe De Mornay (1549-1623), Governor of Saumur, and Lord of the Plessis Marly in the 1600s. Béchamel Sauce is a variation of the basic white sauce of Mornay. He is also credited with being the creator of Mornay sauce, sauce chasseur, sauce lyonnaise, and sauce Porto.
Origin of the Béchamel
Balsamella or Besciamella is the Italian equivalent of the French Béchamel: a very simple white sauce of flour, butter and milk.
The sauce was originally from Renaissance Tuscany and was known as salsa colla or salsa colletta (“glue sauce”) because of the gluey consistency of the sauce, and was brought to France by the chefs of Caterina de’ Medici in 1533. Louis de Béchamel, Marquis de Nointel, was a financier who held the honorary post of chief steward to King Louis XIV.
This sauce was prominent in Italian cooking texts of the Renaissance as “salsa colla”, but was renamed much later in Le Cuisinier François, published in 1651 by François Pierre La Varenne (1615–1678), chef de cuisine to Nicolas Chalon du Blé, marquis d’Uxelles. The foundation of French cuisine, the Cuisinier François ran through some thirty editions in seventy-five years. The sauce originally was a veal velouté, with a large amount of cream added.
Variations of macaroni bechamel
In Cyprus a similar dish is called makarónia tou foúrnou (“oven macaroni”). It is an essential dish during weddings and celebrations such as Easter, where it is served along with spit roasted meat.
Recipes vary, but usually the meat sauce in the middle is made of pork, beef or lamb, tomatoes are only sometimes used, and it is flavored with mint, parsley or cinnamon. The top is sprinkled with grated halloumi or anari cheese, though cheese is sometimes added only to the white sauce.
There is also a Turkish Cypriot version of this recipe called bol peynirli makarna fırında, which substitutes the meat with 2 types of cheese: kaşar peyniri and beyaz peyniri.
In Malta, timpana (the name probably derived from timballo) is made by tossing parboiled macaroni in a tomato sauce containing a small amount of minced beef or corned beef, bound with a mixture of raw egg and grated cheese. Hard-boiled eggs are sometimes added. The macaroni is then enclosed in a pastry case or lid before being baked. A similar dish without the pastry casing is imqarrun.
Pastitsio takes its name from the Italian pasticcio, a large family of baked savory pies which may be based on meat, fish, or pasta.
Many Italian versions include a pastry crust; some include béchamel. The word pasticcio comes from the vulgar Latin word pastīcium derived from pasta, and means “pie”, and has developed the figurative meanings of “a mess”, “a tough situation”, or a pastiche.
We hope you enjoy this delicious macaroni bechamel all the way from Egypt.
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb penne pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 medium onions thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons tomato purée
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups cold milk
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 egg , beaten
- Cook the pasta in a large amount of water until they are cooked but firm. Drain and set aside.
- Add the oil into a Dutch oven and heat it. Brown the onions until they are translucent.
- Add the beef, cayenne pepper, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for five minutes.
- Add the tomato puree and cook over medium low heat for 10 minutes.
- In a non-stick pan, melt the butter.
- Add the flour and whisk for a few seconds until you get a smooth consistency.
- Add the milk, thyme and nutmeg and whisk continuously until it becomes a smooth, thick mixture.
- Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
- Once the mixture is slightly warm, add the beaten egg and whisk quickly.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180˚C).
- Mix half the bechamel mixture in the pasta.
- Place half of the pasta covered with béchamel sauce in a baking dish.
- Spread the meat mixture over the pasta.
- Add the rest of the pasta to form the top layer.
- Pour and spread the remaining béchamel sauce on top of the last layer.
- Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the top is golden.