Today’s baked pasta recipe is one of my mum’s signature dishes. The original recipe came from an Egyptian friend mum met while dad was working abroad, but mum changed and added so much to the recipe (and she is still adding to it and changing it) that I think the recipe I am sharing today would probably have little to do with that original.
The secret to this baked pasta recipe is the sauce. It is a modified béchamel sauce that takes the recipe to the next level. Not only is it pink as opposed to the traditional white but also it is so rich and full of flavor that you will want to eat it with a spoon.
See all pasta recipes.
Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until the color begins to change (don't let it turn dark or it will affect the final color of the béchamel sauce).
Reduce the heat to low. Add the milk gradually while whisking. Whisk until you have added all of the milk to prevent lumps from forming. Keep stirring until the béchamel thickens. Add the cream, if using, and the cheese mixture and stir for 2 minutes. Season with salt, to taste, and the white pepper.
Remove from the heat and let cool for 10-15 minutes. In a bowl, beat the eggs and add a little of the béchamel sauce to temper the eggs. Mix well. Add the mixture back into the pot of béchamel sauce and stir well. Add the breadcrumbs and the tomato paste and stir until homogenous.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions, but for 1-2 minutes less than the recommended time. Drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion until softened. Add the meat and spices and stir occasionally until the liquid evaporates. Remove from the heat.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a 9-by-12-inch baking dish, add a layer of béchamel sauce. Then, add half of the pasta. Top with a layer of béchamel, then add the meat layer. Add the rest of the pasta and spread the rest of the béchamel sauce on top. Bake for 45-60 minutes. Turn the oven to broil. Place under the broiler until the top is golden brown, about 1-2 minutes.