6 Yummy Egyptian Pasta Dishes You Must Try

How were Egyptian Pasta Dishes Made?

Despite how revolutionary Marconi’s radio was back in the late 19th century and how it eventually developed into the technologies we are floating in right now, and despite how much of a tender invention the piano really is, people from all around the world seem to appreciate other Italian inventions much more thanks to the loads of happiness and indulgence they make available every day and for almost everybody.

Espresso, pasta, gelato, pizza, tiramisu, you name it. All are as incredibly pleasant as they are accessible as well as diverse. Mix different amounts of espresso with some milk and you have a hundred distinct coffees. Top your dough with whatever you like and you have a new pizza every time. 

Similarly, cooking the tens of shapes of pasta differently results in a huge variety of both savoury and sweet dishes. Egyptian cuisine has its own contribution to the pasta arena with many tasty pasta dishes. 

In this article, we introduce six of these finger-licking dishes to you, five of which are savoury and the sixth is a sweet pasta dish. They are all easy to make and definitely worth trying.

1. Lesan al-Asfour Soup

Since every lunch or dinner usually starts with an appetiser, I would like to start with this delicious and incredibly simple, easy-to-make Egyptian side dish: Lesan al-Asfour. The name is an Arabic word that translates to bird’s tongue—I checked and the pasta grain is really the same size as a bird’s tongue. That said, the rest of the world knows this pasta by its Italian name orzo.

In many other places, orzo is mostly cooked like spaghetti and penne. Dishes are covered with different sauces or mixed with vegetables, chicken, or herbs. But Egypt’s orzo is quite different. It is a soup.

Lesan al-Asfour Soup is considered a side dish, consumed mostly before or with the main course. Such soup is served with oriental Egyptian dishes such as Mahshi and Egyptian stews with Vermicelli Rice.

This dish is so easy to make and highly nutritious, especially for kids. Usually, the soup is cooked and served plain. However, many people like to add vegetables to it and this is the recipe we are providing here.

So let’s hop into it.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 kilo of orzo pasta
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 cup of diced carrots
  • 1 cup of peas
  • 1 cup of minced celery
  • 1 cup of diced potatoes
  • 4 cups of hot chicken or lamb stock (if not available, you can use water and chicken broth)
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Recipe

This recipe takes only 20 minutes to prepare. The amount cooked is enough for 12 servings.

In a cooking pot set on medium-high heat, add one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of oil. Stir with a spatula until the oil is heated and the butter is melted. Then add the orzo pasta. Roast the pasta for two to four minutes until it turns golden brown. Just make sure it is not dark brown.

Add the diced vegetables, peas, carrots, celery, and potatoes and mix them well with the pasta. Pour in the boiling chicken stock or four cups of water with one cube of chicken broth. Add salt as desired and half a teaspoon of ground black pepper.

Let the orzo soup cook on high heat for around two minutes then lower the heat, cover the pot with the lid and let it simmer until it is completely cooked. You might need to add more water halfway through this process. The pasta should not completely absorb the soup.

Once the orzo soup is cooked, pour it into small bowls and serve it hot.

2. Macarona Bechamel

The word macarona, not macaroni nor macarena, is the Arabic equivalent for pasta; all kinds of pasta. Yet, from the context, one can tell which type of macarona is used. For instance, macarona bechamel features penne pasta.

Macarona Bechamel is a top Egyptian main course dish and a must-have item for family dinners, receptions, and on Ramadan Iftar tables. Besides penne pasta, macarona bechamel comprises French bechamel sauce and a savoury mix of spiced, minced beef and onions. Some people, like my aunt, may add tomato sauce to the beef to give it an extra, deep taste. Others like to add minced carrots. 

This recipe is not complicated but it is done over three stages including the final baking one, taking a total of an hour and 45 minutes before it is ready for serving.

Ingredients

Because this is a dish of three main components that build up about six layers, we have divided the ingredients into three different categories in a way to organise the recipe and tame any overwhelming feelings. 

 For the pasta

  • 500gm of penne
  • Water 
  • 1 tablespoon of salt

For the beef

  • 1/2 kilo of minced beef
  • 1 large minced onion
  • 2 minced cloves of garlic
  • 3/4 cup of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar

For the bechamel sauce

  • 5 tablespoons of butter
  • 5 tablespoons of flour
  • 6 cups of whole fat milk
  • 110g of cream cheese, half a cup of cream, or half a cup of heavy cream, whichever is available.
  • A mix of Lauro leaves, salt, ground black pepper, and nutmeg

Recipe

First, we cook the pasta.

Add water to a large cooking pot so that it is three-quarters full. Add one tablespoon of salt and bring the water to a boil. Add the penne and let it cook. The point is to have the pasta al-dente. So if the pack says ‘cook for seven minutes’, you should cook it for five minutes only.

The pasta will have a chance to fully cook anyway when baked. So, once it is al-dente, drain the hot water and leave the pasta, uncovered, aside for now.

The second stage is preparing the beef.

Heat a large non-stick pan on medium-high heat. Place the minced beef and break it up with a spatula. Let it cook for four to five minutes until there is no melted fat and the beef is dry, crispy, and brown.

Add the minced onions and garlic. Stir until well blended with the beef and let them cook for another two minutes. When the onions and garlic are translucent, add salt and ground black pepper as preferred then combine half a teaspoon of ground cardamom and another half a teaspoon of chilli powder. Stir with the beef to mix well.

Add the tomato sauce and half a teaspoon of sugar and mix them well with the beef. Let the beef simmer until there is no sauce left in the pan. Take the beef off the heat and set it aside.

The third and the last stage is making the bechamel sauce.

In a cooking pot, add five tablespoons of butter (or an equal mix of butter and oil) on medium-high heat and whisk until melted. Add five tablespoons of flour and blend them well with the melted butter. Make sure there are no lumps and the result is totally homogeneous, thin dough. 

Pour in six cups of milk. To avoid having lumps in your bechamel sauce, you can pour the milk gradually and whisk it with the buttered flour until it is totally dissolved. Repeat the process until you have added all the milk.

Now flavour your sauce. Add salt and ground black pepper, one Lauro leaf, and half a teaspoon of shredded nutmeg. Stir them with the sauce. Then add the cream cheese and whisk it with the sauce as well. Stir and mix everything until the sauce gets thicker and comes to a boil.

The resultant sauce should not be so thick though because it will get thicker when it cools down. If your sauce is thin, whisk one tablespoon of starch in half a cup of water and add it to the sauce as it is boiling. This will make it thicker. And also do not forget to take out the Lauro leaf when the sauce is fine and cooked.

Now that everything is ready, it is time to layer your Macarona Bechamel.

Bring in a large oven-safe casserole and brush it with melted butter. Add half a cup of the bechamel sauce. Spread it to cover the bottom of the casserole with a thin layer. Add half the quantity of the penne and distribute it evenly on the bechamel layer.

Pour in some bechamel sauce to cover the pasta but make sure you leave a large quantity for the top layer. Now place all the quantity of the beef to make a new layer on top of this bechamel sauce. Spread it with the spatula to evenly distribute it.

Add the rest of the pasta to the beef to make a new layer then pour all the bechamel sauce left to cover the pasta completely.

In a small bowl, whisk one large egg yolk and brush the final bechamel layer with it. This will give your Macarona Bechamel the distinct thin, golden brown layer.

Heat your oven for 10 minutes to 200°C then place the casserole on the middle rack and let the pasta bake for around 15 minutes. Because the oven is too hot, the top layer will easily turn golden brown. However, you can still turn on the oven grill to make sure you get that distinct layer.

Once cooked, take the casserole out of the oven and let it cool down for around 30 minutes. Traditionally, Macarona Bechamel is served warm so that it can be easily cut into fine squares.

3. Roasted Pasta

Roasted pasta is quite an easy, on-the-go dish that makes up for a quick weekday lunch or even a snack. It can be served alone or along with other dishes like oven-roasted chicken or spinach stew but those will surely take longer to make.

There are two different recipes for roasted pasta. One recipe is super simple with no other main ingredient than pasta with some butter, water, and salt to cook it. The other recipe involves adding minced onions, garlic, and some tomato sauce. So we will specify both recipes here. 

This recipe takes around 20 minutes to cook and is enough for five servings.

Ingredients

  • 500gm of short-cut pasta
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 cups of hot chicken or lamb stock or 2 cups of hot water and 1 cube of chicken broth
  • Salt 
  • Extras: 1 medium-sized minced onion, 2 minced cloves of garlic, and 1/4 cup of tomato sauce

Recipe

Add the butter to a large cooking pot on medium-high heat and stir until completely melted. Add the short-cut pasta. Stir it well with the butter for five minutes until the pasta is roasted and has earned that beautiful golden brown colour.

At this stage, you can add minced onions and garlic, stir until translucent then add the tomato sauce before pouring the chicken stock. If you want the simple recipe, then go ahead and add two cups of hot stock right after the pasta has been roasted.

Stir the pasta and bring it to a boil then let it cook until it has absorbed around half the amount of stock. Lower the heat and let the pasta simmer for 10 minutes or until it is completely cooked.

This tasty pasta dish can be consumed alone or with some pan-seared chicken breasts, seared vegetables, or pretty much whatever side dish you like.

4. Red Sauce Macaroni

This too is another quick-to-make dish if you have a busy day. Like roasted pasta, it can be served alone or with other dishes.

Another thing that makes this pasta super easy is the possibility of making it with many different shapes of pasta. Unlike the other dishes we mentioned earlier, this red sauce pasta dish can be made with either macaroni, short-cut pasta, small ring pasta, shell pasta, or twisted pasta but never with spaghetti or penne.

Ingredients

  • 500gm of macaroni 
  • 1 minced medium-sized onion
  • 3 minced cloves of garlic
  • 5 large minced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 5 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon of paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon of chilli powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon of ground rosemary
  • Salt

Recipe 

First, we cook the pasta. 

Add water to a large cooking pot so that the pot becomes three-quarters full and place it on high heat. Add in one tablespoon of oil and one tablespoon of salt and bring the water to a boil. Once it boils, place the macaroni, stir it, and let it cook for five minutes. It should not be fully cooked but al-dente. Pour off three-quarters of the water and leave some in the pot. Keep the pot uncovered and set it aside for now.

In another cooking pot, add three tablespoons of oil and let them heat on medium-high heat. Then add the minced garlic and onions and stir until translucent. Now add the minced tomato. Stir until the tomatoes spill the water and then add the tomato paste. 

Add salt as desired and flavour the sauce with ground black pepper, paprika, chilli powder, cumin, and ground rosemary. Stir until well blended then let the sauce simmer for five minutes.

Combine the sauce with the macaroni and place the pot on medium-high heat. Stir until the pasta and sauce blend well then let it simmer for five minutes to absorb the sauce and cook well.

This dish is super tasty in and of itself and can pretty much be consumed alone. However, some people might add some stir-fried liver with onions. Others, like my grandmother, used to, serve it with Molokhiya Soup.

5. Red Sauce Penne Tagine

Penne in Egyptian cuisine is usually combined with white sauce as we have seen earlier with the Macarona Bechamel. Yet, this very recipe is almost the only one that uses penne with red sauce.

This Red Sauce Penne Tagine is baked with either cooked minced beef or chicken and it is usually served in Koshary restaurants as a second choice. In this recipe, we will use minced beef but you can simply replace it with stir-fried cubes of chicken breasts with onions.

What is interesting about this dish is that it is served upside down with the beef layer being on the top. Traditionally, it is baked in medium-sized metal pots at restaurants and in clay pots at home or in oven-safe casseroles.

Another thing about this dish is that the pasta gets to cook in the red sauce while it is baked. Meaning, you do not cook the pasta beforehand and then add it to the casserole for baking.

Having said that, let’s get into the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 500g of penne 
  • 1/2 kilo of minced beef
  • 3 minced cloves of garlic
  • 1 large minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 teaspoon of allspice
  • 2 1/4 cups of tomato juice
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 chopped red chilli
  • 1 chopped green chilli
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • Salt

Recipe

Place a large pan on medium-high heat and combine one tablespoon of oil and two tablespoons of butter and whisk them until heated and melted. Place the minced onion and garlic and stir for a minute until they start to change colour.

Add the minced beef. Stir and mix it with the onions, place the chopped chilli and let it cook with the meat until the latter turns brown, crispy, and dry. Add in salt as desired as well as ground black pepper, allspice, coriander, and cumin. Blend them well with the beef. Take the pan off the heat.

In a cooking pot, combine the tomato sauce and tomato paste, with a pinch of salt, ground black pepper, and coriander on high heat and bring them to a boil. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for a minute or two then take it off the heat.

In an oven-safe casserole, add the cooked beef to the bottom then place the raw pasta. Pour in the tomato sauce then add some boiling water so that the sauce completely covers the pasta. Cover the casserole with a sheet of parchment paper covered with another sheet of foil and tightly stick it to the casserole. This will stop the vapour from escaping, letting it fully cook the pasta. 

Heat your oven for 10 minutes to 220°C and place the casserole on the middle rack and let it bake for 30 minutes. Take it out of the oven and let it sit for five minutes then use a large platter to flip the casserole upside down so that the beef layer is on the top.

Serve hot.

6. Azizyya

Pasta is famous for making savoury dishes but it can also be used to make desserts. It does sound weird, I know. It may even feel weirder when tasted if you have never eaten a sweet pasta dish before. But that should not stop you from trying anyway.

Egyptian cuisine does have its own version of sweet pasta. Well, sweet, baked pasta. It is called Azizyya. It originated in Damietta, a northern Egyptian coastal city that is also located at the eastern branch of the River Nile.

This recipe, like the Red Sauce Macaroni, can be made with whatever pasta type you have. In fact, the shape does not matter at all for it will disappear anyway. Azizyya takes around 60 minutes to cook and equals eight servings. This recipe is easy to make and will require only a food processor.

Ingredients

  • 1 litre of warm whole fat milk
  • 500g of pasta of any shape
  • 1 1/4 cups of sugar
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons of whipped cream powder
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons of starch
  • 3 tablespoons of shredded coconuts
  • 2 tablespoons of raisin
  • 2 tablespoons of crushed mixed nuts
  • 1 tablespoon of ghee
  • A mixture of walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, and almonds

Recipe

First, we need to cook the pasta using the same normal process. Just make sure you add neither salt nor oil to the water. In this recipe, the pasta has to cook comletely. Once the pasta is cooked, pour off the water and let it cool down for about 10 minutes. 

Bring in your food processor and combine the cooked pasta, milk, and sugar and beat them at high speed until the pasta turns into a liquid. Then add the eggs, vanilla, and whipped cream powder. Beat the mixture again until everything is totally blended.

Place a large cooking pot on medium-high heat. Pour in the pasta liquid mixture and bring it to a boil. While the mixture heats up, whisk three tablespoons of starch in half a cup of milk or water. Gradually pour the starch and whisk it with the mixture. It should get thicker and thicker as it heats up.

Next, add the shredded coconut, raisin, and nuts. Stir and mix them with the pudding. Once it has thickened, take it off the heat. 

Brush an oven-safe pan with ghee then pour the pasta pudding and let it cool down for five minutes so the pudding thickens more. Whisk one egg yolk in a small bowl and brush the top layer of the pudding with it.

Heat your oven to 180°C for 10 minutes. Put the pasta pudding on the middle rack and let it bake for 30 minutes. The top layer should turn golden brown by the end of this period. Once this happens, take the pan out of the oven and let it cool down. Then place it in the fridge to chill for an hour. Take it out, cut it into squares, and serve it. 

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