When my brothers and I were kids, my mum would make pastitsio – a Cypriot speciality, delicious served warm from the oven, or as a cold meze, cut into cubes. Her recipe called for a simple mix of cooked pasta tubes, minced pork and parsley, sometimes with a hint of ground cinnamon, all topped with a white sauce before being baked in the oven. There was always some left over pasta and mince at the halfway stage that we would scoff down in a shot, so this recipe pays homage to that. While I was working on developing the recipes for this book, my children, Eva, Lex and Luca made the best tasters, and this particular idea passed with ﬂying colours. And I completely understand why…
2 large onions, ﬁnely diced
350 g/12 oz. minced/ground pork
1 cinnamon stick, about 7.5 cm/ 3 inches long
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a handful of freshly chopped ﬂat-leaf parsley
400 g/14 oz. dried spaghetti pasta
1 stock/bouillon cube (meat or vegetable)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, for cooking and drizzling
sea salt ﬂ akes, to garnish
Pour enough olive oil into a frying pan/skillet to just cover the base and then gently fry the onions on a low heat. You need to take some time with the onions, you want to cook them slowly so they release their sugars and gently caramelize without burning, so this will take about 10 minutes. Once the onions are done, remove them from the pan and reserve.
In the same pan, add the minced pork and cinnamon stick and fry on a high heat until the mince is cooked through and just starting to caramelize. Once the pork is cooked through and some of it starts to look crispy, turn the heat down a little and reintroduce the onions to the pan, followed by the ground cinnamon, a generous amount of salt and pepper and the chopped parsley. Fold it all together and if the pasta isn’t ready yet, turn off the heat.
Cook the pasta in boiling water according to the packet instructions, but with the addition of the stock cube. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the minced pork pan with a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid and be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the sticky dark bits into the sauce.
Simmer the pasta in with the pork until the liquid has almost all evaporated, leaving just a silky coating to the pasta – this is a dry dish, so don’t expect a ragú.
Serve dressed with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt ﬂakes.
By Theo A.Michaels