An utterly comforting Middle Eastern take on macaroni, macarona is what we call an elbow macaroni cooked dish with spiced ground beef. It’s an easy family favorite that is a real crowdpleaser!
What is Macarona?
It’s basically how we say macaroni in Arabic. Macarona is Arabic macaroni! We cook the ground beef with some mixed spices, and add to it a concentrated tomato sauce. You can add veggies like I did or keep it plain. Some people bake the cooked macaroni in the oven, but I like the stovetop method more- it’s saucier!
Why should I make Macarona?
It’s an easy, comforting pasta dish.
Kids will love this!
It comes together in a flash, and with whatever ingredients you have on hand.
The little twist of spices, like turmeric and Arabic mixed spices, give this a hearty and exotic flavor.
It’s a staple! You have to have a good, easy, stovetop macaroni recipe and I’ll bet this is the one!
It’s healthy! A scant amount of fat in the form of olive oil, lean ground beef, some veggies. You can even use whole wheat pasta for extra fiber.
It’s adapted from the very popular YouTube channel, Jedir 3waish . She has millions of views and knows what she’s doing!
What ingredients do you need to make Arabic macaroni?
For the pasta: elbow macaroni, or some other tube like pasta of your choice.
The meat: ground beef, I like using lean.
The spices: Any spices of your choice. I used seven spices (like Arabic style mixed spices), paprika, turmeric, basil, cinnamon powder, and garlic powder. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the spices. The spice in this dish is what transforms this from an Italian style pasta to a Middle Eastern one.
For the tomato sauce: Some tomato paste to add concentration and depth to the sauce, as well as a can of crushed tomatoes. The original recipe calls for fresh tomatoes, which you can of course use, but I wanted to make it easier. I’ve also previously used canned diced tomatoes that I’ve blended quickly to get to a smoother consistency.
The veggies: Onion and garlic are staples. Optionally, like I did, you can add a little diced zucchini and carrots. I think this gives a lot of body to the sauce, and some extra nutrition. Add any veggies you like. Peas, mushrooms, corn, or omit them! The choice is yours.
How to make Arabic macaroni:
- First step is cooking the pasta. It’s done with a bit of a twist. Add a little tomato paste to the boiling water so the pasta cooks in a flavorful tomato broth. This is something I never would have thought of on my own! Once the pasta is cooked, drain and set aside, and reserve a few ladlefuls of that tomato pasta cooking water.
- Cook the veggies and the meat. Soften the onions, and the vegetables if using, then add the beef and cook until brown. I like to drain any extra fat from the beef before adding the spices.
- Add tomato paste and crushed tomatoes and simmer. Add in a spoonful of pasta water, and simmer on low heat for another few minutes.
- The cooked pasta goes into this tomato meat sauce. Stir to combine and cook until pasta is warmed through again.
Tips for the best macarona:
Don’t over cook the pasta. Unless you like it really mushy, cook until al dente, because it’ll cook a little further when you add it back to the sauce.
Don’t forget to reserve some pasta water while draining the cooked pasta (I’m frequently guilty of forgetting and throwing all the pasta water out!). You’ll need to add some pasta water back into the sauce while it’s cooking.
Customize this however you like! If you want to omit the meat, feel free to do so. If you want to do 50/50 beef/lamb, that’s an option too.
Add the spices that you like or have on hand. Don’t feel like you need to follow the suggested spices too closely. Taste as you go and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
What to serve this pasta with:
I love this with a simple green salad with an olive oil lemon dressing. The salad’s acidity cuts through the heartiness of the dish.
You can serve with a heavier salad, like an Eggplant Pomegranate Salad, Cucumber avocado salad, Strawberry Salad with Grilled Halloumi and Candied Pecans, or Beetroot Arugula Salad with a Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette.
You can serve this with garlic bread or dinner rolls too, or just enjoy it plain! It’s definitely filling enough.
How to store leftover pasta:
Leftover pasta can be stored tightly covered in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Reheat in the microwave, or on low heat over the stovetop. If it dries out, you can add a little splash of water before heating to make it saucier.
If you liked this recipe, you might like:
Pasta with Yogurt Sauce (Macarona billaban)
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- big pinch of salt
- 3 heaped tbsp tomato paste, divided 2 oz or 70 g
- 1 pack elbow macaroni 14 oz or 400 g (you might not use it all, see notes)
- 1 onion, very finely diced
- 1 zucchini, finely diced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
- 250 g ground beef
- 1 tsp seven spices
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp paprika powder
- 1/4 tsp basil
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 can crushed tomatoes 14.5oz (400g)
- Bring a large pot of water to boil, add 1 tbsp olive oil and the salt, one tbsp of tomato paste, then the pack of pasta. Cook until al dente, then drain the pasta, reserving the pasta water. Set cooked pasta aside.
- In a large skillet, heat the remaining tbsp of olive oil. Once hot, add the diced onion, and cook for 4-5 minutes until softened. Add the diced zucchini and carrots, and garlic and cook for a further 4-5 minutes until softened slightly.
- Add the ground beef, and cook, smushing with a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Keep cooking until the beef is browned and cooked through, then optionally, drain the fat.
- Add in the salt, pepper, and all the spices. Cook for another minute or so. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of tomato paste, and stir.
- Add the can of crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, then add a big ladleful of the reserved pasta water and simmer for 2-3 minutes on low heat.
- Add the pasta to the sauce (I don't always add all the pasta, maybe 3/4 of the cooked amount until the finished dish is as saucy as I like). Stir to coat, cook for another minute or so until the pasta is warmed through, then enjoy!
Middle Eastern Macaroni by everylittlecrumb on Jumprope.