Persian Macaroni (makaroni) with Potato TahDig is a delicious and fun pasta dish that is prepared with a slightly different technique than usual. Most pasta dishes are prepared by tossing the cooked pasta with some type of tomato based or cream based sauce. With Persian Macaroni we take the pasta dish to a different level by first tossing the cooked macaroni with tomato based meat sauce, then steaming it for an hour or so. During this steaming process the potato slices in the bottom of the macaroni get crunchy and taste amazing; a real treat!
If you’re familiar with Persian cooking you must have come across several recipes with different methods and flavors for TahDig. TahDig means “the bottom of the pot,” and it is the golden crust that forms under the Persian rice, in this case the fat macaroni noodles. Making TahDig seems to be a challenge to many cooks who are trying their hands on Persian cooking for the first time. Several of my readers have contacted me about their desire to make TahDig and their frustration when it does not come out quite right.
I have to agree that TahDig might take a few tries to get as perfect as we like. I have a special segment on my “How To”page, called Persian Steamed Rice. In this segment I have explained in detail the steps for making a perfect TahDig with lavash bread or yogurt and saffron. We will be using potato slices for the TahDig in this recipe. A couple of factors are helpful when making TahDig: A nonstick pot makes a TahDig that will not stick to the pot, also when the heat is distributed evenly under the pot, the TahDig browns evenly. A heat diffuser is used for this purpose and it is sold in specialty kitchen stores. One last important factor is patience and perseverance! I always tell my readers not to give up until they are happy with their TahDig!
Persian Macaroni is a wonderful treat from my childhood, though back then my mom used to make it with ground beef instead of ground turkey. The choice of meat in this recipe is a personal preference, but I find the ground turkey to be lighter than ground beef. I love using the fat macaroni noodles in this recipe because they taste better than the thin spaghetti, but any tubular variety pasta will work.
The Potato TahDig tastes amazing in this recipe, however lavash bread or flour tortilla may be substituted. The sliced potatoes cook tender with the delicious sauce that is mixed into the macaroni, and they get nice and crispy on the other side. I recommend trying this Persian Macaroni with some crumbled feta cheese on top; it tastes fantastic. Long time ago my uncle introduced me to this unusual combination and now my family and I never eat Macaroni without feta cheese, give it a try and see how you like it!
Prep time: 40 minutes
Steam time: 1 hour
- THE MEAT SAUCE
- 1 ¼ pounds lean ground turkey
- 1 TBSP vegetable oil
- 2 tsp Persian Meat Spice, or your favorite curry powder
- ¾ tsp salt
- ¾ tsp black pepper
- 3 TBSP tomato paste
- 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced and fried to golden brown
- 2 TBSP vegetable oil for frying the onion
- 1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
- 1 ½ cups hot water
- Pinch of saffron powder (optional)
- THE PASTA
- 12 ounces fat macaroni noodles (I used Misko, No 2)
- 2 TBSP vegetable oil
- 2 TBSP butter
- Enough white or red potato slices ( peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick) to cover the bottom of a 6-Qt nonstick pot
- Another pinch of saffron (optional), sprinkled over the potato slices
- Crumbled feta cheese to top the macaroni (optional but highly recommended)
- Fry the thinly sliced yellow onions with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a nonstick medium skillet. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
- In the same skillet add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and the ground turkey. Stir and brown the turkey over medium heat until no longer pink. Add 2 teaspoons Persian meat spice, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add 3 tablespoons tomato paste and stir for couple of minutes.
- Add fried onions, the optional pinch of saffron, fresh lemon juice and 1 ½ cups hot water. Bring it to a boil over medium heat. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the sauce reduces and thickens. Stir several times during this time.
- Meanwhile in a nonstick 6-Qt pot boil the macaroni in salted water until al dente (tender but firm). This particular macaroni cooks faster than the thinner spaghetti variety so watch closely not to overcook. Drain the macaroni in a colander and rinse briefly under cold water and set aside until the meat sauce is ready. You will use the same pot for steaming the macaroni, rinse it under hot water and set aside.
- Arrange the prepared potato slices in the bottom of the pot to get an idea how many slices you will need. Add the potatoes to a bowl and sprinkle with the optional saffron powder and toss.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons butter in the nonstick pot. Arrange the potato slices in the bottom of the pot.
- Toss the cooked macaroni with the meat sauce and add it to the pot over the potato slices. Cover the entire surface of the potatoes. Use a spatula to level the top and gently press the macaroni and sauce mixture.
- Cover the pot with damkesh or kitchen towel and steam the Macaroni over medium low heat for about 1 hour.
- Check one of the potato slices to make sure it is golden brown. Place a large round serving platter over the pot and invert the Macaroni so the Potato TahDig will be on top.
- Serve immediately with a side of crumbled feta cheese, Salad Shirazi, Sabzi Khordan, or torshi!