Firinda Makarna (Cypriot Beef and Bechamel Pasta Bake)

Firinda Makarna is not a dish I’d heard of until reading Hasan Semay’s Big Has Home cookbook, but his description of it as being somewhat like an Italian lasagne was helpful, in that it features minced beef, pasta and a cheesy bechamel sauce.

However, in this dish, the minced beef is fried with onions, parsley and seasoning rather than cooked into a ragu, and the pasta is bucatini (long, thick tubes) rather than lasagne sheets. The cheesy sauce is a fairly classic béchamel using parmesan, helim and kasar peyniri (or any other stringy cheese–we used mozzarella).

It’s quick and straightforward to make and absolutely delicious.

Firinda Makarna

 

Read our full review of Big Has Home by Hasan Semay.

Firinda Makarna

Firinda Makarna

I guess this is our version of a lasagne. It’s a celebration dish – if it’s someone’s birthday or the week you touch down in Cyprus to see family, at least two of the aunties will have made it. For me, this is comfort – it’s home. If you do have any leftovers, leave them in the tray and reheat in the oven the next day so the bits of pasta go crispy. Those are the bits to fight over.
Servings 8 people
Author Hasan Semay

Ingredients

  • 1.2 kg (2lb 11 oz) minced beef
  • 2 large white onions, diced
  • 2 bunches of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped (stalks and all)
  • 20 (¾ oz) crushed black peppercorns
  • 1.2 kg (2lb 11 oz) bucatini
  • 350 g (12 oz) butter
  • 800 g (1lb 12 oz) helim, grated
  • 200 g (7 oz) plain flour
  • 2 litres (3½ pints) full-fat milk
  • 120 g (4½ oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 150 g (5½ oz) kasar peyniri or other stringy cheese, grated
  • a grating of fresh nutmeg
  • 4 eggs
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C fan/190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.
  • First off, heat up a heavy frying pan with a glug of oil. Add the minced beef and fry for 10 minutes until it releases all of its moisture. The moisture will evaporate, and the beef will start to fry again. Fry the mince until it’s just starting to crisp, then add the onions and fry with the beef until soft. Add in the chopped parsley and season generously with salt and the cracked black pepper. Transfer the cooked beef mixture to a deep baking tray. That’s our bottom layer.
  • Cook the pasta in heavily salted water according to the packet instructions. Drain the pasta and cool it down in a colander under cold running water. Lay the cold pasta on top of the meat – it doesn’t really need to be neat, but you need to make
  • sure that it’s evenly stacked. Squash 100g/3.oz of the butter over the cooked pasta just for a little extra naughtiness.
  • Scatter 200g/7oz of the helim over the top, giving it a little mix so that it gets down to the bottom layer too.
  • The top is just a good old-fashioned bechamel sauce, heavy on the cheese. Melt the remaining 250g/9oz butter until it just starts to foam, then add the flour and cook gently. Using a whisk, make sure the mixture is moving. We basically want to cook out the flour so that our bechamel is smooth and thick. Add the milk, a quarter at a time; the first quarter will get completely sucked up by the roux. Keep stirring. Add the remaining milk when the mixture is getting too thick. Add in all the grated cheese and whisk until melted. Grate in the nutmeg, take the bechamel off the heat and whip in the eggs. Season your bechamel with salt so the cheese sings.
  • Pour the bechamel over the pasta and fill it to the top. Bake for 45 minutes–1 hour until the top is brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and let it sit in the tray for at least 15 minutes before portioning it.
  • I like to eat mine with a massive whack of spicy ketchup; a little hat tilt to the Cypriot cousins. LOVE x

The recipe scales well if you want to make enough for four servings instead of eight, and you can use a deeper baking dish if that suits you better.

Firinda Makarna

Made the recipe? Let us know how you got on in the comments.

 

Kavey Eats received a review copy of Big Has Home by Hasan Semay from publishers Pavilion. Book photography by Haarala Hamilton. Home cooking images by Kavita Favelle.

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