This Persian macaroni with beef and turmeric takes me right back to my childhood. My fellow Iranian Americans can undoubtedly recall their childhood days of this ketchup covered ambrosia. Busy weeknights would prompt Maman or Baba joon to remove the pound of beef from the freezer and whip up a quick “mah-kar-ohn-ee” (Persian style spaghetti).
My favorite way to devour macaroni was with a healthy drizzle of ketchup and the contents of at least two Costco parmesan packets emptied on top. Bear with me, American friends, and give this recipe a try. Ketchup with spaghetti (that is actually called macaroni) sounds odd, I know, but the flavor combination is magic and brings back happy childhood memories for Iranians around the world.
The ingredients are simple but if you’re not Persian, you’ve probably never combined them in this way before.
You start by sautéing onions in olive oil, until they are sweet and translucent and your clothes smell like alliums. Then add the ground beef, breaking the meat up into small pieces while it cooks. Next, add turmeric and tomato paste, cooking the mixture until the paste is dark red but being careful not to burn the turmeric (which would give your dish a bitter taste). Add some tomatoes and water to the beef and let is simmer into a tasty sauce while you cook the pasta.
Cooking pasta sounds simple, but when you’re making Persian macaroni, you have to add the extra step of steaming the noodles. Cook the pasta one minute shy of the lowest recommended cook time. Test the noodles and make sure they are a little firmer than al dente but you don’t see a visible white dot in the middle of your spaghetti strand.
Once the pasta is cooked mix the noodles with the sauce and add a layer of sliced potatoes to the bottom of your pot. The potatoes will brown making the tahdig that your family will fight over. Top your potato layer with the sauce stained noodles. Before covering the pot, wrap the lid with a clean kitchen towel to prevent condensation from dripping onto your pasta. Let the noodles and meat mingle on low heat for 30 minutes and set the table with ketchup and parmesan (trust us).
You can enjoy this persian macaroni any day of the week or invite some Iranian friends over and impress the hell out of them!