Makaronopita (macaroni pie)
In all my studies of the cuisine of Aigialeia, I hadn’t seen until recently any reference to the region’s makaronopita aka macaroni pie. Nor, naturally, had I ever come across it. And yet, when I tried it just a few days ago at the Palia Agora, the taverna run by my friend, Eleni Kougia Tsagri, I was crazy about it and started to ask around. Anyone I asked who was 40 and over – and there were quite a few of them – all remembered it as their favourite family meal, but said that they hadn’t eaten it in years.
Easy to prepare, makaronopita was in any case the food of difficult periods, when both time and fancier ingredients were hard to come by. In fact, it seems to have been one of the recipes left behind in Achaia by the Italians. All you needed was macaroni, milk, eggs and cheese – home grown or home-made back then – and the tempting dish was ready.
But in the hands of modern chefs, makaronopita or macaroni pie has become a complicated dish similar to pastitsio or au-gratin, with ingredients like puff pastry, ham, cream, bacon, yoghurt, cheese. Instead Eleni’s version impressed me because it was so easy to make and the tastes of each ingredient stood out. How could I not thank her for daring to present this in her taverna, when the fashion today is for the most ambitious and elaborate inventions.
Recipe for Macaroni Pie (makaronopita)
- 1 packet thick macaroni, no. 2
- 1.5 litres fresh milk
- 5-6 fresh eggs, beaten
- 2-3 tablespoons butter
- salt, pepper, nutmeg
- 500 g feta, crumbled
- 1 cup grated kefalograviera, a little anthotyro or myzithra (fresh white cheese)
Boil the pasta in plenty of salted water. Drain and place it in a baking dish in which you have browned a little butter. Add the milk, the rest of the butter, the eggs and the seasonings. Mix in the feta and anthotyro, scatter the grated cheese on top, and bake in a hot oven until browned.
So easy and quick. We rarely enjoy something so light and yet so tasty and satisfying. The richness of cucina povera in all its greatness!