Pastitsada, one of the signature dishes of Corfu, is not just another stew with tomatoes and a few spices. Preparing this favourite Sunday fare of most Corfiot families is an elaborate ritual and every housewife has her own recipe. For those who are not familiar with it, this flaming red dish derives its colour from the healthy amount of hot paprika added to the meat even before any tomatoes are introduced. The whole art of mixing the spices – spetsieriko – that go into it developed exclusively from the desire to enhance the taste of pastitsada. At Karmela’s pharmacy in Saroko the mix contains no less than 15 seasonings.
Recipe for pastitsada
First the meat, which can be cubed beef, veal or cockerel, is browned in oil, with onions, then simmered with white wine and vinegar for a while before adding finely chopped garlic, salt, sugar and the spice mix, which can include cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, sweet and hot paprika, nutmeg, allspice, a pinch of cumin, and bay leaf. The chopped tomatoes or tomato paste go in at the end. The sauce should be dark and very thick. The Corfiots say that a well-cooked sauce must be thick enough to dye a moustache red!
When the sauce is ready, the cook adds a packet of thick macaroni, boiled and drained, although some housewives prefer to cook the macaroni in the sauce itself after removing the meat. The whole dish is served with grated cheese.