Pasta with a Palestinian Twist…plus a bonus recipe at the end!
I love pasta, and was really excited when I first had pasta the way a lot of Palestinians make it: with yogurt and nuts! It might seem strange to a lot of people for a pasta sauce to be made using just plain yogurt, but it makes for a really light dish. We especially like it in the summer because it is served cold. It’s also super easy, and my brother and I had fun whipping it up quickly.
Note: everyone I have seen uses spaghetti for this dish, but we didn’t have any, so I just used penne pasta. It worked just fine :)
1 package of pasta (any kind you like)
half a kilo of ground meat
vegetable oil to brown the meat
1 tablespoon each of pepper, cinnamon, allspice + salt to taste
1 large onion, finely chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, finely crushed
1 large container of yogurt (more if you like the pasta more yogurt-y!)
half a bunch of parsley, finely chopped
3/4 cup of almonds (halved and skinned or slivered) and 1/4 cup of whole pine nuts
oil for browning the nuts
salt to taste
Boil the pasta in well-salted water. When it’s cooked, drain off the water.
In a big bowl, mix all of the yogurt and garlic. Add salt to taste. Stir in the cooked pasta. Combine till the pasta is well coated. If you like more yogurt or garlic, add more!
Lay the pasta with yogurt in a casserole/baking dish. It needs to be somewhat deep, so you can layer the ground meat, nuts, and parsley on top. Chill the dish of yogurt+pasta in the refrigerator.
When you’re ready to eat, heat some oil in a pan, then add the chopped onion, cooking until it becomes very soft and just barely starts to turn golden. Add the ground meat, and break it up with your spatula as it cooks. Cook it thoroughly, adding the pepper, cinnamon, allspice, and salt to taste. After it cooks, turn up the heat just a bit and let it brown till it gets a bit crispy, if you like. Spread the layer of cooked meat on top of the chilled pasta+yogurt. In the picture below, I had already started layering on the nuts..
In another frying pan, heat some oil and brown the pine nuts, then the almonds. You want them to be a nice golden color. Stir them constantly as they brown, because they burn easily. If you don’t have pine nuts, just use more almonds. That’s what we did! Layer the browned nuts on top of the layer of meat.
Finally, spread the chopped parsley in a layer on top of the nuts. This is the final step, and makes the dish look so pretty!
Bonus Recipe: Another way some Palestinians make pasta is by mixing crushed, dried mint, crushed garlic, and salt to taste in a small bowl. Then mix about a quarter cup of buttermilk into a large container of plain yogurt till you get a thick, saucy consistency (use less buttermilk if you like it thicker). Add the mint+garlic mixture to the yogurt sauce. Heat this sauce in a saucepan if you’d like to serve it hot; otherwise, it’s great cold too. They serve the sauce by spooning it over spaghetti, then sprinkling each serving with browned pine nuts. It’s fantastic and great if you don’t like meat!