What does a pasta dish look like after a Persian makeover? How do you turn a classic Italian ingredient into Persian comfort food?
Well, first you boil pasta until it’s al dente, and then you layer it in a pot with a tomato meat sauce and Persian spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom and rose petals. Before cooking, the pasta on the bottom of the pot is properly prepared to create a crispy Tahdig, much like the prized Persian version of basmati rice. The Tahdig can be made with the pasta itself, as shown here, or with potatoes or tortillas.
Let’s face it, not much about Iran is simple: ours is a complex and dynamic culture with subtle and endearing nuances built into our language, affects and expressions. When it comes to pasta, however, we have gone in the other direction, and have really simplified it! Pappardelle, Farfalle, Campanelle, Bucatini, Orecchiette, Penne, Spaghetti, Fettuccine and a dozen more types of pasta can just get so confusing to remember! In Iran every pasta regardless of its actual name is referred to as Makaroni (Maa-kah-roni). Similarly, almost all condiments and sauces are simply referred to as “sohce”!
So next time you are having a hard time remembering all the different varieties of pasta, you can thank an Iranian for simplifying it for you!
- 1 onion, diced
- 5 tablespoons oil, divided
- 1 pound beef, ground
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, adjust to your taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 1 teaspoon Advieh (Persian spice mix)
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup water
- 1 fresh lemon, juiced
- 10-12 cups water
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 pound bucatini pasta, or spaghetti
- In a large frying pan, saute the onions with 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat for 10 minutes or until translucent.
- Add the ground meat and continue to saute for 5 minutes on medium-high heat, or until the meat has turned light brown.
- Add garlic, salt, pepper, turmeric, Advieh and tomato paste, and stir over medium-high heat for 5 additional minutes.
- Once the all the spices and tomato paste have been well incorporated into the meat, add 1 cup of water and lemon juice, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 5 additional minutes. Set aside.
- In a large pot bring 10-12 cups of water and the salt to a boil.
- Add the bucatini pasta and stir, and cook on high heat for 10 minutes. Pasta should still be somewhat al dente at the end of the boiling process.
- Drain the pasta using a colander and rinse ever so briefly to remove some but not all of the starch.
Assembly and cooking
- Select a non-stick pot that's big enough to cook the pasta and meat in, without a lot of extra room. The pot should ideally be about two thirds full.
- Place the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the pot, and decoratively cover the bottom of the pot with some of the slightly rinsed pasta. I make spirals out of of 4-5 strands of pasta each, covering the bottom of the pot with as many spirals as necessary.
- Add 1/3 of the remaining pasta, followed by 1/3 of the meat sauce. Continue alternating until all the pasta and meat sauce has been placed in the pot.
- Wrap the lid with a clean towel and place on top of the pot. This will allow the pasta to steam.
- Allow the pasta to steam over a medium-low heat for 40 minutes.
- Once the pasta is cooked, cautiously and swiftly invert the pasta out of the pot onto a large serving platter.
- Serve with a side of Torshi, Persian pickled vegetables.