Imqarrun il-Forn (baked macaroni), also known as baked pasta (Għaġin il-Forn), is a traditional and popular Maltese dish. It is very often served as starter during Christmas lunches, however, it is also enjoyed throughout the year at family gathering and Sunday lunches. The dish combines penne or rigatoni, a rich tomato ragù sauce, hard-boiled eggs, frozen peas and cheese together.
I refer to this dish as the ultimate Maltese comfort food. What I really love about this dish is the crispy-almost-burnt pasta bits on top. It is irresistible not to steal one (or maybe more) of them as soon as the dish is out of the oven. The only downside about it is that is heavy on carbs. However, this does not stop there… another Maltese favourite dish is called Timpana… basically the same recipe however the dish is encased and baked in a pastry crust.
Both dishes are so popular in Malta that you can easily find them ready baked in the villages’ street food shops, along with Maltese pastizzi and qassatat. A big portion of imqarrun il-forn or timpana is inexpensive but it is definitely filling and satisfying. 😛
I have to admit that to make it at home, it is very time consuming, yet it is easy to prepare. If time is limited, you can prepare the sauce a day in advance. When I do make it, I always prepare a big dish, either because we have family/friends over or to freeze it and have ready-prepared homemade food in my freezer for future meals.
If you want to try out this traditional Maltese dish, you will find a step-by-step recipe below. I am sure you will not be disappointed! 😉
For my vegetarian friends, it is easy to omit the minced meat and replace it with zucchini, aubergine, mushrooms, soya mince or even a combination of all of these. It will definitely turn out delicious just the same! 🙂
Imqarrun il-Forn, Maltese Baked Macaroni
- 400g minced pork
- 400g minced beef
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, diced
- 3 carrots, cubed
- 2 celery stalks, cubed
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 100ml red wine
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 800g chopped tomato in tomato juice
- 500g penne or rigatoni
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
- 100g frozen peas
- 250g fresh ricotta
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 100g cheddar cheese, grated
- Sea salt and fresh black pepper
- In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped onions, carrots and celery. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent and the vegetables start to turn golden.
- Add the garlic, chilli flakes, dried oregano and bay leaves and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the wine and stir to deglaze the pan. Let it evaporate almost completely.
- Add the minced meat and season with salt and pepper. Cook it for 10-15 minutes or until brown, stirring it occasionally to break up any large.
- Add the tomato paste and chopped tomatoes. Mix everything together an let it simmer, partially covered for 25-30 minutes. Check it occasionally to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
- While the sauce is bubbling away, cook the pasta in salted water. Cook it for 2 minutes less that the recommended cooking time on the packaging. Place it under cold running water to stop further cooking. Remember, this dish will go in the oven and the pasta will cook further then.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Once the sauce is ready, add the pasta, frozen peas, hard-boiled eggs and ricotta cheese. Mix and season with salt and pepper. Add the beaten eggs and mix gently.
- Pour the pasta and sauce mixture into a large oven dish, sprinkle the cheddar cheese evenly on top and place in the preheated oven.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the top is golden and crispy.
- Let it sit for at least 15 minuted before cutting and serving.