Macaroni Bechamel

Macaroni Bechamel is a marvelous Egyptian layered meat casserole with pasta and seasoned lamb in a tomato sauce, topped with bechamel.
Macaroni Bechamel

Macaroni Bechamel

By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime

Welcome to #EatLikeAnEgyptian! Today I am hosting a little soirée of an event that celebrates the Egyptian holiday of Eid el Fitr, which begins at sundown. The holiday marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting.

While I don’t personally do any fasting, I am a huge fan of Middle Eastern cuisine.  And not very much is written about it out in the blogosphere. I do like exploring cuisines, especially ethnic ones, so getting a chance to do something international  with my blogging friends is a real treat.

So today I chose to make the Egyptian Macaroni Bechamel, which is their version of the Greek Pastitsio, if you have ever had that. The seasonings in this one are a bit different, although  cinnamon is likely  in either. I use all ground lamb in mine, but you can feel free to use a mixture of lamb and beef or all beef. Only pork would be inappropriate as Islamic people do not generally eat pork.

I served this with a saute of zucchini, which I hope to get a chance to post sometime soon. It is one of those easy recipes, but even I have a secret ingredient  I add to mine. You could also serve this with salad, as I usually do with many meals.

Macaroni Bechamel

This casserole uses a couple of Middle Eastern spices which you may or may not be familiar with. They can be bought commercially- I have seen baharat in common grocery stores. The ajwain you may have to visit a Pakistani or Middle Eastern grocery. Markets that have halal meat will usually have this. Although I do list some substitutions and DIY’s for these spices.

Baharat is a mixed spice used in Middle Eastern cooking. You can buy it commercially prepared or blend your own. Here is a typical  recipe:

  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sumac
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground  cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Ajwain is a kind of seed that looks like tiny caraway. However, it has a flavor that has elements of both thyme and mint. You can buy it commercially prepared, or if you cannot procure it, you can try mixing mint and thyme. You could also probably get away with using some za’atar spice in it’s place, as they are somewhat similar,  albeit with a few other things added.

Macaroni Bechamel

Be sure to check  out the other blogger recipes below! I am off tomorrow for the weekend but expect me back on Monday for the beginning of #CookoutWeek when I share my recipe for pulled pork nachos. Just  thinking of those makes my mouth water!


Macaroni Bechamel

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Macaroni Bechamel

  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ajwain
  • 2 teaspoons baharat spice blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 16 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 16 ounces uncooked cut macaroni or penne pasta
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • salt and black pepper (to taste)
  • 3  cups milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Brown lamb,  onion,  and garlic in olive oil, draining off any excess fat.
  3. Add ajwain, baharat, cinnamon,  salt, and pepper along with diced tomatoes and tomato sauce;  simmer 15 minutes.
  4. Cook macaroni in salted boiling water according to package directions and drain.
  5. Place butter  in a skillet,  melting that, then whisking in the flour to form a roux.
  6. Add milk and bring to a boil; boil one minute, stirring constantly.
  7. Whisk egg yolks in a heatproof bowl; add one ladle of bechamel  sauce to the yolks, whisking as fast as you can, then add a couple more, one ladle at a time,  then pour the eggy bechamel into the pan and finish whisking. 
  8. Add nutmeg to sauce.
  9. Spray a large casserole  or lasagna pan with nonstick spray.
  10. Layer half the cooked pasta in the bottom of the dish, then evenly top with meat sauce.
  11. Add the rest of the  pasta to cover the meat, then top those noodles with the bechamel, using a spatula to even it out.
  12. Sprinkle  with Parmesan.
  13. Bake, uncovered, for 50-60 minutes or until golden.
  14. Let cool 15 minutes to set up, then slice into squares and serve.

From the kitchen of

Macaroni Bechamel

Welcome to #EatLikeAnEgyptian!

Today we are having fun exploring our favorite Egyptian cuisine recipes to commemorate the holiday of Eid-el-Fitr, which begins at sundown.

8 responses

  1. This sounds delicious. I am definitely giving this a try. I’ve always wanted to try the Greek version and now it might have to take a back seat!

    • Sumac has long been a favorite. I love it on basmati rice with it’s mild lemon flavor, especially with lamb kebab. I am crazy about lemon! And rice…just last night I had some Indian lemon rice. Yum!

  2. This was always on the menu for Christmas Eve growing up and my mother kept this going for my kids. Now it is something they expect for Christmas Eve dinner. I’m 1/2 Middle Eastern and I don’t think eating would be the same without all the lovely flavors from there…
    Merry Christmas!!

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