Macarona Bechamel is a classic comfort food pasta bake recipe from Egypt.
Our homemade Egyptian casserole recipe features layers of penne pasta, spiced minced beef tomato sauce baked with creamy béchamel.
It is ready to serve once the sauce is bubbling around the edges of the casserole dish and mozzarella gratin is lightly browned. When scooped with a serving spoon the melted cheese gets stringy, guaranteed to make your guests mouths water.
Our hearty Egyptian Macarona Bechamel recipe is a family favourite to serve at lunch or dinner with a selection of freshly tossed salads.
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What Is Macarona Bechamel?
Macarona Bechamel is Egypt’s take on a creamy bechamel pasta bake. Typically, it’s made with layers of tubular pasta like penne, zitti or rigatoni, a spiced meat tomato sauce, and bechamel. A cheesy layer is often added to the top before baking, creating a mouth-watering gratin.
The traditional name in Egypt is Macarona Bechamel but the dish is often mistakingly referred to at Macaroni Bechamel in the West. Westerners often try the dish in Egypt (or other parts of the Middle East), and then swap the name to macaroni, because it reminds them of macaroni and cheese.
If you’re a pasta lover looking to try a new recipe we know you’ll love our decadent Egyptian Macarona Bechamel!
Travel to Egypt by Cooking Macarona Bechamel at Home
I love traveling to the Middle East and North Africa.
As a professional food and travel journalist, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy amazing meals in the Middle East, from authentic markets to award winning restaurants.
I ate Macarona Bechamel at a traditional Moroccan riad, served with a fresh salad in Istanbul and Bodrum, at a late night feast at the luxurious Four Seasons in Amman, as a hearty lunch in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and a Middle Eastern buffet in the Dubai desert while belly dancers twirled under the night sky.
You May Also Enjoy These Egyptian Travel Stories…
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- Things to See and Do in Cairo
Where To Eat Egyptian Macarona Bechamel
Haven’t traveled to Egypt before? It may be helpful to first sample the dish at a local restaurant to better understand how it is served. You’ll get an idea for the best spices to add to the meat sauce, ideal béchamel to pasta ratio and whether or not you want to add a mozzarella gratin on top.
My Family Loves Egyptian Macarona Bechamel
When my family moved to Oakville the first restaurant we visited was a local Egyptian restaurant called Agabi. Ranked as one of the best restaurants in Oakville, Agabi became our family’s go-to Middle Eastern take out joint.
We’ve been eating at Agabi for years and have tasted almost every dish on the menu. Each member of my family has discovered a favourite dish, that we always seem to consistently order.
My father loves the Creamy Chicken, muddled with mushrooms and onions. My mother is a fan of the Lamb Shashlik, grilled to perfection with green pepper and mushroom. My sister always orders the Chicken Shawarma Plate, and I’ve always loved when they have Macarona Bechamel on special.
After discovering authentic Egyptian food at Agabi Restaurant, my family would always seek out the next best thing. We’ve traveled to Israel, Jordan, Egypt and beyond…always keen to experience a new and fresh take on the popular Middle Eastern and North African dish.
After visiting Cairo I returned home to try and recreate the popular comfort food casserole.
I prepared this Egyptian Macarona Bechamel recipe on a cold winters day. The hearty dish was the perfect main course to serve after an afternoon spent shovelling snow. Paired with a simple tossed lettuce salad, it’s now one of my family’s favourite winter casseroles.
Recipe Cooking Tips
Traditional Macarona Bechamel is quick and easy to make at home. Here are some cooking tips to get you started.
- Authentic Macarona Bechamel is made with a tubular pasta like penne but you can also use zitti or rigatoni. The dish is not prepared with macaroni like it’s American counterpart.
- If you don’t eat beef feel free to substitute with ground chicken or pork.
- We like to use medium fat minced beef as it gives the dish lots of flavour but you can use lean ground beef if you’re looking to reduce your calories.
- We’ve used Spanish cooking onions in this recipe but you can substitute for white onions, shallots or sweet vidalia onions.
- We’ve used whole milk in the bechamel to make it rich and creamy but you can substitute with lower fat options like 2% or skim milk.
- We suggest topping the casserole with shredded mozzarella as it melts well in the oven and develops a crunchy gratin and stringy texture when scooped out on each plate.
- If you’d like to add a pretty garnish to the casserole top with chopped parsley and sliced cherry tomatoes before serving.
- We often double the recipe as Macarona Bechamel freezes for up to 6 months making a last minute dinner quick and easy during a busy work week.
What To Serve With Macarona Bechamel
We love serving this Macarona Bechamel recipe in the autumn and winter as a hearty main course on a chilly day.
Since Macarona Bechamel is carb, cheese and meat heavy we like to serve it with a fresh Egyptian salad like Salata Baladi. The acidity in the salad pairs nicely with the meaty and cheesy pasta bake.
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- Ndunderi Amalfi Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi
- Älplermagronen Cheesy Swiss Alpine Macaroni
Our Macarona Bechamel recipe is packed full of healthy ingredients!
Beef is a great source of protein and minerals like iron as well as an excellent source of the amino acid L-caine. Beef also features antioxidant glutathione known for its anti-aging benefits.
Onions are a humble vegetable packed with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Regular consumption of onions can help boost digestive health and reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
Rich in a group of phytochemicals called carotenoids, tomatoes may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, and provide protection against cancer. Tomatoes are also a good source of immune-boosting vitamin C.
Allspice is used for indigestion, intestinal gas, abdominal pain, heavy menstrual periods, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, colds, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
Rich in energy-boosting manganese, cinnamon is also antibacterial and may protect your brain against Alzheimer’s disease.
Consuming dairy products (such as milk and cheese) provides health benefits — especially improved bone health. Dairy foods provide nutrients that are vital for health and maintenance of your body. These nutrients include calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein.
Nutmeg is said to relieve pain, soothe indigestion, strengthen cognitive function, detoxify the body, boost skin health, reduce insomnia, increase immune system function and improve blood circulation.
Macarona Bechamel is the perfect make-ahead recipe. If you have company coming for dinner prepare the casserole in the morning and simply pop it in the oven when your guests arrive.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container or the casserole dish can be wrapped in a tight layer of clingfilm and refrigerated for 3-5 days.
We often double the recipe to save time in the kitchen as the casserole can be kept in a freezer for up to 6 months. To cook from frozen simply remove from the freezer and let thaw to room temperature before baking according to our recipe instructions.
You May Also Enjoy These North African Recipes…
- Egyptian Crispy Crusted Dukkah Chicken
- Egyptian Salad Vegan Salata Baladi
- Pkaila Tunisian Butter Bean Stew
- Moroccan Seffa Medfouna Saffron Chicken Vermicelli
- Moroccan Chicken Lentil Stew Rfissa
- Spicy Crispy Roasted Harissa Potatoes
- Spicy Vegetarian Harissa Pasta
- Roasted Vegetable Couscous
How To Make Homemade Egyptian Macarona Bechamel
Egyptian Macarona Bechamel
- Large pot
- Large Skillet
- Casserole dish
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- Wooden spoon or spatula
- 600 g Penne Pasta
- 700 g Ground Beef
- 1 tbsp Canola Oil
- 1 Spanish Onion diced
- 2 cups Tomato Sauce
- 1.5 tsp Allspice
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1 cup All Purpose Flour
- 1 cup Butter
- 1 L Whole Milk
- 1 cup Chicken Stock
- 1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1 cup Mozzarella Cheese shredded
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Boil pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- For the meat sauce, in a nonstick pan over medium heat, cook the onion with vegetable oil, stirring occasionally until softened for about 6 minutes. Add the minced beef and break it up using a wooden spoon and cook until browned, for about 5-7 minutes. Add all the spices and the tomato sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside.
- Make the bechamel sauce by melting the butter over medium heat in a large pot. Add the flour in a few tablespoons at a time and continue whisking as you do this to form a creamy roux. Cook for 3-4 minutes as you continuously whisk.
- Pour the milk in slowly while continuously whisking. Add in the chicken stock and continue to whisk for 4-5 minutes until the sauce thickens. Season with ground nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
- Mix the pasta with approximately 1 cup of the Bechamel sauce.
- In a deep, large casserole dish, add 2 tablespoons of Bechamel sauce and spread it around, then add half the pasta.
- Add all of the meat mixture on top and even out the layer with the back of a spoon. Add the remaining pasta.
- Cover with the remaining Bechamel sauce.
- Bake for 30 minutes until bechamel has turned golden brown, then add 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese evenly to the top and return to the oven and broil for an additional 3-5 minutes until cheese is golden brown and bubbling. Let rest 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.
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