Probably the biggest food surprise I experienced in Iran was Persian macaroni, aka spaghetti and meat sauce. Definitely not an Italian version, and not even an American version, but a version that was uniquely Persian, complete with tah dig (forgive, my slightly burnt tah dig, I am still perfecting my spaghetti tah dig.)
Some of ingredients are predictable – ground beef, spaghetti, tomato paste, onions and garlic. But there is also turmeric, and not tomatoes or tomato sauce, just paste.
And of course there is the cooking method, you finish the macaroni the way you finish rice, steamed over a layer of oil so a crispy crust, called tag dig, forms on the bottom.
1 lb extra lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
Kosher salt and Freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. tomato paste
8 oz. tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1 lb spaghetti
1 Tbsp canola oil
In large skillet, brown the ground beef with the onion and garlic. Cook until all the liquid from the onions evaporates. Add turmeric, salt and pepper.
Add tomato paste and stir until the paste is fried, then add tomato sauce and water. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
While the meat cooks, cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and mix together with the meat. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Put the oil in the bottom of a covered pot, sprinkle with some turmeric. Transfer the meat and spaghetti to the pot. Cover tightly and cook over medium-low heat for 35-40 minutes.
Serve with tah dig and enjoy!
Serves 6 – 8