Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pasta with More Flavor! Mbekbka - Libyan Pasta Recipe

Do you want to add more flavor to your pasta? Well you're in luck! Today, I want to share a technique with you that is used in Libyan cooking and it's super simple. In Libya, they don't boil their pasta in water like most other cultures. Instead, they cook the pasta in the sauce. I know. Genius. The best part is that as the pasta plumps up it's filled with the flavors of your sauce. And you can use any type of pasta

The dish is called Mbekbka, it's an onomatopoeic word, and got it's name for the sound the pasta makes as it bubbles in the sauce. Growing up my dad always made this, especially when it was cold; he used penne pasta with ridges which allowed for the sauce to cling to every nook and cranny. In the recipe I have included below, I used pasta shells with ridges. Typically you would first cook onions, almost to the point that they are fried, in a little olive oil,  then add in your tomato paste, garlic, lamb, chickpeas, chili powder and turmeric. You add in water periodically when the sauce becomes too thick. Finally you add in the pasta and let it simmer. Remembering to continually stir and add in water, so you don't end up with a starchy, goopy, pasta loaf. 

I make mine a little differently. But I think the most important part is the technique of cooking your past in the sauce vs. the water. 

Mbekbka- Libyan Pasta - Vegetarian Version

Olive Oil
1-2 onions (I like to use Vidalia)
1/2 can – 1 can of tomato paste (to taste)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of cumin
2- 3 cloves of crushed and minced garlic
Salt to taste
3 cups of pasta (any type but spaghetti cooks the fastest)
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced and chopped
1 Japanese baby eggplant cut into quarters
1 zucchini, julienned
2 carrots, cut into inch thick slices
2-4 cups of water

Additional elements:
Goat Cheese
Grape Tomatoes, halved

If you want to make a more traditional version:
1 cup of chickpeas
Lamb chops

If you want to be a traditional rebel:
1 yukon gold potato, diced

Cut the onions into slices. Preheat the skillet and add 1 –2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the onions cook until slightly fried. Then add garlic and tomato paste. Add some water to loosen up the tomato paste and make it easier to stir. Add in the spices, turmeric, cumin, salt, chili powder. Let the sauce come to a boil and add in the pasta. Then reduce heat to medium. Add water and stir the pasta as needed, so the pasta does not stick to the bottom. After about 20 minutes add in the vegetables. If you like mushier vegetables then add them in sooner. Continue to stir and add water. Let pasta cook for another 30 – 40 minutes. Remember to continue to add water and stir as needed. Note: if you like your pasta more al dente then cook for a shorter period of time. Once pasta is finished cooking, remove from heat. Serve hot in a bowl and garnish with olive oil and lemon. And don't forget some nice and crunchy fresh bread to complete them meal.


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