Comforting food: Macaroni Béchamel

This is one of those comfort foods that trigger nostalgia for past times, when my family used to gather at my grandparents’ house on Fridays. My grandmother, God rest her soul, was an excellent cook and the dining table was constantly filled with more than four types of dishes per gathering, excluding dessert.

This recipe I’ve tweaked with different spices and spelt flour instead of the regular all purpose. It’s a family wholesome delicious dish and can be enjoyed with a Mediterranean salad. I generally don’t like using precise numbers for ingredients; there are certain ratios you have to abide by such as the one for béchamel, but in cuisine it is a matter of what you observe is needed or enough.


  • 500 g penne pasta
  • 1 Kg minced beef
  • 150g diced skinless tomato
  • 30g celery
  • 30g carrot
  • 60g diced onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 egg
  • Arabic seven spices (black pepper, paprika, cumin, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon)
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Your favorite cheese (optional)


  • 50g butter
  • 50g spelt flour
  • 500ml milk
  • 100ml meat juice
  • 1 egg
  • nutmeg
  • salt and pepper


  • Boil pasta to al-dente, season and set aside
  • Sauté diced onions in olive oil, add garlic and sauté the diced celery and carrot. Add the diced skinless (emonder) tomato and simmer for a couple of minutes
  • Add the minced meat and seven spices and cook. Season to taste
  • Strain the meat mixture, but keep the juice for the béchamel
  • Once the meat cools down, add the egg and mix to bind
  • For the béchamel, make the roux (butter and flour mixture) and add cool to room temperature milk while whisking until it thickens. If you’re using the spelt flour, it is granular so the roux is going to be light brown in color from the start
  • French technique tip: General rule of thumb – hot roux to cold milk or cold roux to hot milk so the béchamel doesn’t lump
  • Add the meat juice while whisking until it thickens and bring to boil. Grate some nutmeg and season to taste
  • Off the stove, add the egg while whisking as the béchamel cools so it doesn’t become a scrambled egg
  • Add a few ladles of the béchamel to the macaroni
  • In a medium oven pan: spread some béchamel on the bottom, spread some pasta, spread the meat on top, spread grated cheese if you want, spread the rest of pasta, spread the béchamel on top
  • Pour a thin layer of milk on top of the assembled pan to brown the surface of the dish more evenly
  • Bake the dish in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 mins until the surface browns. You can broil the surface at the end of the cooking time
  • Remember to always rest the dish when it’s ready for at least 15 minutes so you’ll be able to cut it easily and evenly


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