Sephardic Spaghetti and Cheese Bake

Unlike last week’s time consuming recipe, the following recipe requires very little effort or ingredients.
The original bake, which is known in the Sephardic cuisine as “Makarron reynado”, is a simple mix of cooked spaghetti, Feta cheese, eggs and milk, baked until set and golden.
While many other baked pasta dishes use thick Béchamel sauce in the mixture, this bake is much lighter, and has a fresh tangy flavor, from the Feta cheese.
The baked dish is then cut into squares, and served hot, or at room temperature, as part of a weekend brunch buffet, as a light lunch, with fresh salad on the side, or as a side dish.
Though I most often prefer the basic recipe, different additions and flavors can be added to it, as you can see from the following suggestions. Try them, or create your own version, and enjoy.

Notes:
* Bulgarian Feta cheese has tangier flavor and creamier texture, than the Greek Feta. It is the preferred cheese for this bake, but if you can’t find it, any other Feta cheese will do.
* If you can find it, Quark cheese (see THIS post for explanation), can be used instead of the sour cream or yogurt.

Makes: 8-10
Prep time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:
1 package thin spaghetti (1 Lb, 454 grams)
2 Tbs butter, soft
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
3 XL eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream, or thick full fat yogurt (see notes)
2 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup crumbled sheep Feta cheese (preferably Bulgarian, see notes)
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 390F (200C). Line a 12”x8” (20.5 cm x 30 cm) baking pan with baking paper.
2. Cook the spaghetti al-dente, according to the directions on the box. Drain and place in a large bowl.
3. While the pasta is still warm, add the butter and milk, and mix well, to melt the butter. Add the eggs, sour cream or yogurt, salt and pepper, and mix again. Add the Feta cheese, and mix gently, to keep fairly large chunks of it in the mixture.

4. Transfer the mixture into the prepared pan. Flatten the top with a spatula and drizzle a bit of olive oil on top. Cover the pan with baking paper and aluminum foil.
5. Bake for about 50 minutes, removing the cover after 30 minutes, until the bake is set and golden.

Variations:
Roasted red peppers:
To the basic mixture, add ½ cup chopped roasted red peppers (click HERE for instructions on how to prepare at home, or use drained from a jar) and 1 Tbs crumbled fresh thyme.

Sun dried tomatoes and olives:
To the basic mixture, add 1/3 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes, 10 salt cured chopped pitted black olives, and 1 Tbs crumbled fresh thyme.

Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts Bake

The following tasty vegetable bake, was inspired by Mac n’ Cheese dish, with its cheese sauce and crispy topping. Here, instead of pasta, I used a mixture of steamed cauliflower and fresh, thinly sliced, Brussels Sprouts, for different textures and colors. Continue reading

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Pancakes

Roasting sweet potatoes brings out their flavor to the fullest; the process concentrates their flavor, they caramelize at the edges and become a real treat. Continue reading

Eggplant, Mushrooms and Cheeses Bake

Both mushrooms and eggplants have unique texture and mild flavor, that blend beautifully with cheeses. In the dish here, I decided to combine both in one bake, and the result was just what I was hoping for: Continue reading

Pickled Mini Eggplants with Celery and Herbs

Finding these beautiful mini eggplants at the market, my first thought was to prepare my dish of mini eggplants stuffed with lamb (click HERE for the recipe). However, on second thought, I decided to go with a lighter direction, and use them to make quick pickles with fresh herbs. Continue reading

Sephardic Fresh Fava Beans with Onions and Mint

Unlike green/string beans, fava beans are more familiar to most in their dried form. They are also called broad beans for a reason, as they are substantially broader and bigger than green beans. Continue reading

Herbs De Provence Pork Tenderloin with Maple Roasted Red Cabbage

I usually pair pork tenderloin with fruit, but this time, as I also had a nice red cabbage head,  I’ve decided to go in a different direction. I roasted the cabbage with only salt and pepper, then poured a bit of maple syrup and red wine vinegar over it, when it came out of the oven. It was delicious. Continue reading

Egg Noodles Bake with Mushrooms and Cheeses

This tasty and aromatic bake is the easiest way to serve pasta to a large party. It is based on the  East-European Jewish “Kugel” dish, that is more known in its sweet version. Continue reading

Spiced Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Cider

After my successful experiment with cooking chicken in cider and apples (recipe can be found HERE), I decided to use these ingredients to prepare pork tenderloin (also known as pork fillet). Continue reading

Fresh White Corn Polenta with Pan Fried Shrimps and Roasted Vegetables

Fresh corn season is here and, once again, I’m using it in all kinds of dishes. One of my favorite and easiest recipes using fresh corn is to cook it “polenta” style. Unlike the time consuming traditional polenta, which is made with dried cornmeal, this quick cooking version is lighter and so perfect for summer. Continue reading

Five Marinated Salads

When we think about the term “salad”, we usually think about a dish that is prepared soon before serving and and is eaten as fresh as can be. However, it’s always good to remember that not all salads were created equal, and that many of them taste even better after marinating for a few hours, or even days. Continue reading