The Carnival period of Greek Lent is over. That is to say…all though partying and parades continue through the week until this upcoming Sunday, that eating meat is done. We are now into cheesefare week or Tyrini and all week Greeks will be enjoying cheese-based dishes.
Great Lent with commence next Monday with Clean Monday and those observing will abstain from eating meat or any animal by-products. In the meantime, let’s get cheezy and enjoy the week with an array of cheese dishes. Greece’s tough times have continued into 2012 but a Greek’s spirit will never be snuffed out. Greeks love a good party, good company and enjoyed with good food.
This recipe is not your ordinary macaroni & cheese as it’s all cooked on your stove-top and the novel part of this dish is that the pasta is NOT boiled in water but simmered in milk. Here’s how it works: Low fat milk (skim or 2 %) is warmed-up and then the pasta is added and simmered with your constant care and stirring.
The starches from the pasta thicken the milk and give the grated cheeses something to hang on to when added into the pot. There are many recipes using this technique but I encourage you to look at White On Rice Couple’s popular post and Elise’s post (Simply Recipes) where she even adds that this dish was cooked from the time of the American Civil War!
This frugal approach to cooking-up a macaroni & cheese (sans boiling the pasta) is ideal for cheesefare week – especially this year. Many Greeks are struggling and saving on utility bills is certainly a priority. Many Greeks make their Greek coffee on a gas burner or a “gazaki” and some even use gazakia for quick dishes. This is where I got the idea for the title of this dish.
My Greek take on this dish is adding some grated onion for a more savory undertone, dry mustard, fresh ground nutmeg and the cheeses are all Greek: an aged piquante Kasseri cheese from Samothrace and a crumbled, tart Feta cheese made of goat milk.
Makaronia Sto Gazaki (Μακαρονια στο γκαζακι)
3 1/2 to 4 cups of milk (skim or 2 %)
2 1/2 cups of elbow macaroni
1 tsp. salt
1 small onion, passed through a box grater
1 tsp. dry mustard (powder)
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
fresh grated nutmeg to taste
1 cup grated Kasseri cheese
1 cup coarse crumbled Feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 – 1/3 lightly toasted breadcrumbs
- Pour your milk into a large pot and add the milk, grated onion and bring to just scalding over medium-high heat. Now add the salt, dry mustard, pasta and stir and once the milk has returned to a boil you may reduce to medium and continue to stir (do not leave unattended as milk may broth-up and spill over). Simmer while stirring for 30-40 minutes.
- Check to see if pasta is cooked to your liking. If not add a 1/4 cup milk and continue to stir (add more if needed). Add grated nutmeg, fresh ground pepper and add the grated/crumbled cheese in batches.
- Take off the heat, stir-in chopped fresh parsley and serve. Top with some toasted breadcrumbs.
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