Makaroni is a Persian Spaghetti made using a bolognese style sauce, layered with pasta then cooked to create a crispy bottom called tahdig.
Makaroni also known as Persian Spaghetti has been one of my favourite dishes since childhood! It reminds me of my grandmother who would always make it for me.
Iranian makaroni is traditionally made with a meat sauce however I've put my spin on it making it with Vegan Bolognese sauce.
Once the pasta and sauce are cooked separately, they are then layered in a pot and cooked again together on a low heat. This brings a whole new flavour, without overcooking the pasta.
The pot is then flipped upside down on a serving platter and it will look like a beautiful spaghetti cake! Of course, I can't forget the best part, the crispy top which is called Tahdig.
I must admit, a lot of the pasta cooking process goes against all Italian rules. But it just works so well and every bite is so satisfying! My Italian fiancé adores Makaroni, even though it breaks all the rules.
I love serving Makaroni with a side of Shirazi Salad which gives a nice freshness.
What is Tahdig?
If you’re familiar with Persian food or have seen my recipe for how to make Persian Rice with Tahdig, you will see that we often make Tahdig which translates to bottom of the pot.
It’s a golden crust that forms at the bottom of the pot during the cooking process and can be made with rice, bread, potatoes and pasta as used in this recipe.
What is Advieh made of?
Advieh is a Persian spice mix, which is typically made with a mixture of ground cumin, cinnamon, dried rose petals, nutmeg and cardamom.
Now you should know, this is how my mum makes it and you will find everyone has their own style of making Advieh. If you prefer to buy it, best to try your local Persian market.
Ingredients to make Makaroni
- Pasta, I've used spaghetti, however, the thicker the pasta the better. Bucatini is also commonly used
- Mushrooms are the main ingredient for the vegan bolognese. I’m using a mix of portobello and brown mushrooms which are more thicker in texture and act as a meat substitute
- Carrots, celery and onion are all diced up into tiny cubes and create the soffritto which is the base to any bolognese sauce
- Garlic because it’s always a must in any sauce of of course!
- Turmeric powder is added for extra flavour. Always ensure to fry it down well to remove any bitterness
- Tomato paste is concentrated so it brings a richness to the sauce. It does need to be cooked long enough or the flavours to cook down
- Passata is crushed tomatoes. I like adding it to my vegan bolognese for another level of depth to the sauce
- Lentils are added for protein. They also have a meaty resemblance. You can use canned or cooked lentils
- Oregano is added for some earthy herbs
- Advieh (Persian Spice) is added for the signature flavour. It’s a mix of several spices as mentioned above. An alternative is to add cinnamon and nutmeg.
How to make Makaroni
Time needed: 2 hours and 5 minutes.
- Make sauce
In a saucepan prepare your bolognese sauce, traditionally ground meat sauce with beef and or lamb is used however in this recipe I’ve made a vegan bolognese using mushrooms and lentils
- Cook pasta
In a large pot with boiling water, cook pasta until cooked then drain into a colander and rinse pasta with water to remove any excess starch.
- Layer it up
Add olive oil to the bottom of the same pot used for the pasta with ground saffron powder (optional) stir into the oil which should be warm from the pot
Add a layer of cooked pasta (approximately ⅓ of the pasta), to the bottom of the pot and press down slightly so it’s an even layer
Spoon 2-3 ladles of the bolognese sauce over the pasta then top with another layer of cooked pasta. Continue the same steps until there is no more pasta left, your final layer should be the sauce.
- Cook and serve
Wrap the lid of the pot with a clean tea towel, and close the lid as usual. Allow pasta to cook on low heat for 45 minutes
Then increase the heat to medium to high at the end for an extra 5 minutes then gently flip the pot upside down on a large platter. This can be done by placing the platter on the top of the pot and flipping upside down.
Serve and enjoy!
Tips to make Persian Spaghetti Recipe
Vegan Bolognese Sauce
- Make sure to cut all the vegetables into the same size pieces so that they cook evenly
- Don’t add salt to the mushrooms until after they have browned as this will produce water and make them watery rather than being nicely sautéed
- Always ensure to fry the turmeric for a few minutes with the vegetables. This brings out the flavour of the spice and reduces any bitterness
- Always sauté the tomato paste down for a few minutes. This will cook down the flavour and will remove any raw tomato taste
- As with any bolognese sauce, the longer the sauce is cooked on low heat the better the flavours will develop and taste, however you can do it in less time
- I know it sounds criminal to break the spaghetti in half, but this is done so that the pasta is easier to serve and eat with this style of dish
- Rinse the cooked pasta under water to remove stickiness. If not, it will be hard and messy when layering the pot
- Always make sure to use a non stick pot to avoid the pasta sticking and also to ensure your Tahdig won’t stick to the bottom
Layer and Cooking
- Ensure you add enough oil to the bottom of the pot to ensure the Tahdig will crisp up and not burn or stick to the bottom
- Make sure the bottom layer of the makaroni is a thick layer of spaghetti. This is the foundation of the dish. If the sauce is added too low to the bottom of the pot, it will become soggy at the bottom as it eventually drips down
- Allow the makaroni to cook in the pot for 45 minutes on low heat. This allows it to steam and cook very slowly rather than becoming overcooked or mushy
- Wrapping the lid of the pot with a tea towel is key to capturing the steam. If you don’t do this, the steam will drip back into the pot and can make your pasta mushy
More Persian Recipes
Makaroni (Persian Spaghetti)
- 360 g spaghetti pasta
- 350 g mushrooms - I’ve used a mix of portobello and Swiss brown mushrooms
- 2 small carrots
- 2 celery sticks
- 1 white onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ½ cup passata
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup lentils
- ½ teaspoon advieh (Persian spice) or ¼ teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon tsp dried oregano
- 3-4 tablespoon Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Vegan Bolognese Sauce
- Chop mushrooms, carrots, celery, onion and garlic all into small cubes
- Heat olive oil in a large pan or pot and add all the mushrooms. Saute over a high heat and once browned, season with salt and pepper and remove mushrooms from the pan
- In the same pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil, onions, celery and carrotsSeason with salt and pepper and sauté for 5 minutes until the onions are translucent
- Add the garlic along with turmeric powder and sauté for a few minutesThen add the tomato paste and make sure to fry this down for a few minutes with the vegetablesAdd the passata and 2 cups of water, season with salt and pepper
- At this time, add ½ a teaspoon of Persian spice mix called Advieh (information on ingredients above on blog) Another alternative is to add ¼ a teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg.Add oregano and mushrooms and allow the sauce to simmer for 45 minutes on a low- medium heat for the flavours to develop
- Once the sauce has been simmering, add ½ a cup of cooked or canned lentils. If the sauce is too thick, you can add more water if necessary. Allow to cook for 15 minutes
- Boil a pot of heavily salted water. Break spaghetti in half (yes you read right! hehe) and add to the pot
- Once pasta is cooked, drain in a colander and rinse under water (it feels criminal I know hehe)
Layer ingredients and cook
- Add a generaous amount of olive oil to the bottom of the same pot used for the pasta and ¼ teaspoon of ground saffron powder (optional) mix into the oil which should be warm from the pot
- Add a layer of cooked pasta (approximately ⅓ of the pasta) to the bottom of the pot and press down slightly so it’s an even layer
- Spoon 2-3 ladles of the bolognese sauce over the pasta then top with another layer of cooked pasta. Continue the same steps until there is no more pasta left, then finish with the top layer being the bolognese sauce
- Wrap the lid of the pot with a clean tea towel, and close the lid as usual. Allow pasta to cook on low heat for 45 minutes
- Increase the heat to medium to high at the end for an extra 5 minutes then gently flip the pot upside down on a large platter. This can be done by placing the platter on the top of the pot and flipping it upside down
- Cut out pieces of the Tahdig (crispy base) to share evenly, serve and enjoy your Makaroni!
You can store in the freezer to use next time.