Spaghetti cake with Kashkaval cheese (Macaroni bel-furn)

“AAh...Fotini’s macaroni…” This is what my dad  says  every time a plate of baked pasta is  set in front of him. I have heard this woman mentioned throughout my childhood, and even now, her name still  pops up every  time. (Then he lets out a sigh)

My mom  would remain  placid and the meal would proceed; finally,  I inquired about this Fotini person to my aunt Lucette, who lives in Denmark;  (dad is not prone to anecdotes or small talk).

Fotini was the Greek cook who lived with my dad’s family for 30 years in Egypt. She was the daughter of a Greek orthodox priest and a native of Samos; she became  like  a member of the family. My dad and his sister would call her Fotnakimou and loved her dearly.  She only spoke Greek and had no interest in speaking anything else, so the entire family became conversant  in Greek (or they wouldn’t eat probably); she was exceptionally gifted and made an outstanding  continental-style cuisine, including a macaroni dish that she covered in a homemade phyllo dough and baked in the oven (which  left an indelible mark on my dad).

When phlebitis and old-age came, she decided to move back to Samos; she went to the bank to collect thirty years worth of earnings, carefully saved up in gold coins; the bank teller handed her a wad of paper bills; she saw these,  shrieked and promptly fainted.

She was brought back to consciousness, put on a ship and went  home, without her gold, but with paper bills instead.

This is my take on  Fotini’s macaroni; it is pasta, Lebanese-style, with minced lamb and kashkaval cheese. I encased the whole thing in phyllo, since that’s what my aunt said Fotini used to do. (Except hers was homemade)

What is Kashkaval cheese?

It is a sheep’s milk cheese, comes from Bulgaria (Romania, Macedonia) and is loved, just loved in Lebanon; I used to eat it on a daily basis with pita bread and tomato slices. It is available at middle-eastern stores. In Lebanon, it is called kashkawan.

INGREDIENTS: 8 to 10 servings

  • 1 1/2  pounds  of spaghetti
  • olive oil, as needed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, mashed with a dash of salt
  • 1  pound of lamb, ground
  • 3 cups of lamb broth (or meat or veal broth)
  • 4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or 1 box of Pomi (or something similar)
  • a handful of pine nuts, toasted in skillet with a tad of butter
  • 3  cups  (or more) of Kashkaval cheese (or Provolone or Fontina cheese), grated coarsely


  1. Step One: Heat a skillet and fry the meat, using two spoons to break up into small pieces if it clumps together. Drain the meat by dumping it in a strainer. Fry the onion in hot oil and add the meat to the onion. Season with salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice. Add the chopped tomatoes, the lamb or meat stock  and cook the mixture for about 30 minutes. Add the chopped garlic the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Adjust seasoning.

  1. Step Two: Cook the spaghetti until al dente and cover the pasta with the sauce, coating it evenly. Add the shredded kashkaval cheese and toss the pasta to coat it evenly with the cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  2. Step Three: Grease the bundt pan; spread one phyllo sheet on the diagonal, pressing to let it take on the shape of the pan. Butter the sheet (or spray); add 5 more sheets, covering the entire surface of the bundt pan, including the neck of the pan.
  3. Delicately so as not to tear the phyllo dough, add the pasta in several scoops. Fold the phyllo dough over the pasta, adding one or two sheets if necessary to make sure the pan is fully enclosed. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 25  minutes. Remove from the oven and set on a flat surface for about 5 minutes. When ready to serve, flip over onto a serving platter.

NOTE: The actual spaghetti is not very wet; the sauce and the cheese keep it moist but it is not swimming in sauce!

I am participating with this post in the 5 Star Makeover for Pasta:

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  1. Posted May 2, 2010 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    WOW! This is so beautiful I might actually feel bad cutting into it (but not bad enough) :) It looks amazing!

  2. Posted May 2, 2010 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    I am seriously groaning here. Really. I love baked pasta normally, but with lamb and this delicious cheese? Amazing.

  3. Posted May 2, 2010 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    What a great story! I have not seen pasta prepared like this before. What a beautiful dish.

  4. Posted May 2, 2010 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Encore une fois, une recette qui sorte de l’ordinaire.
    Je vais voir si mon magasin orientale vend ce fromage ou pas.
    En attendant, j’enregistre ta recette.
    A bientôt et bon dimanche.

  5. Posted May 2, 2010 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    hello, very cook…

  6. Posted May 2, 2010 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    What a great story! Fotini’s macaroni looks fantastic!

  7. Posted May 2, 2010 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    What a lovely story! I’ve never thought of baking pasta in phyllo before. It looks like Fontini was on to something!

  8. Posted May 2, 2010 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    What a beautiful dish! Thanks for adding the substitutions in the recipe. I live in a small town and occasionally have trouble finding some ingredients. I can’t wait to try this recipe!

  9. Posted May 2, 2010 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Really interesting post, Joumana! I loved the story about Fontini. Did she put lamb and Kashkaval cheese in hers too?
    I’ve worked with phyllo and really enjoy it. Never have seen it used in a bundt pan though…really a brilliant idea. It makes a perfect enclosure for your delicious spaghetti mixture. What a presentation! And knowing you, it’s going to be heavenly to taste too.

  10. Posted May 2, 2010 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    What a fabulous story…and what a lovely dish! I love how it is encased in phyllo, and the pine nuts on top are so pretty.

  11. Posted May 2, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Magnifique cette tourte de pâtes aux tomates et fromage… Vraiment très réussi.
    La coupe est très belle et me mets l’eau à la bouche (mais pour moi ce sera sans l’agneau, car je ne mange pas de viande)…
    Est-ce que tu blogue depuis le Texas ?
    Très bonne fin de week-end,
    Patricia – La Table de Pénélope

  12. Posted May 2, 2010 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Very good and nice presentation for a Spaghetti dish!

  13. Posted May 2, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    This is so clever! The end result looks like a dessert, I would love to make this to trick some of my friends with.

  14. Posted May 2, 2010 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I would simply love to savor a piece of this delicious nous! I love everything all the way from the ingredients to the final presentation. Reminds me of my previous posts where I just love the challenge of making everything in non traditional cookware LOL!
    About that story….It would most probably have been better for her to take the gold back to Greece instead of paper, especially since that economy has collapsed!

  15. Posted May 2, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I have never seen this dish before and I’m sorely tempted to try it and see how it tastes. It looks beautiful. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings…Mary

  16. Posted May 2, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Superbe cette recette!, Quelle originalité!

  17. Posted May 2, 2010 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    That is so interesting! I’d love to try it, although it does sound a bit tricky. I wonder if kashkaval is the same as Sicilian caciocavallo? Linguistically related, anyway!

  18. Posted May 2, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Merci pour ta réponse. C’est formidable de vivre au Etats-Unis, notamment au Taxas et de pouvoir également retourner de temps en temps vivre au Liban.
    Quelle chance…
    J’ai vu récemment une émission de t.v. sur la cuisine Libanaise.
    Connais-tu des livres de cuisine Libanaise édités en Français où je pourrais découvrir cette excellente gastronomie… mais sans viande !!!
    A bientôt,
    Patricia – La Table de Pénélope

  19. Jagruti
    Posted May 2, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    what a beautiful pasta dish..never seen this dish..

  20. Posted May 2, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I love your blog! I will be checking it often.

  21. Posted May 2, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    This is the most amazing recipe! At first I thought it was a dessert and then I began to read. I’m still smiling about the story of the Greek cook and her coins. I’d love to try this recipe :)

  22. Posted May 2, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Wow, an amazing spaghetti cake, I love that the whole thing is encased in phyllo, how delicious!

  23. Posted May 2, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    C’est une recette très originale !!!!!
    Bravo pour cette réalisation !
    Je te souhaite une très belle soirée,
    Bisous, Doria

  24. Posted May 2, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    What an amazing dish! I love the story, too.

  25. Posted May 2, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I love these kind of family stories and I love when you share them with us. The story brings this dish to life-what a wonderful dish.

  26. Posted May 2, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Yum Joumana!
    I can see why your Dad feels the way he does about this cake. For some reason, I’m scared to make this, but I really want to… I’m going to look through the instructions for carefully.

  27. Posted May 2, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    tu m’épates avec tes plats très originaux, chez toi on est sûr de pouvoir régaler nos papilles et nos pupilles, j’aime beaucoup
    bonne soirée

  28. Posted May 2, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Wow. So much better than spaghetti with Prego! This is beautiful and I can just imagine how tasty it is!

  29. Posted May 2, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    It’s interesting to put that phylo dough over pasta… it takes a lot of TLC i suppose to do that, and yeah i enjoyed reading the story too…
    great recipe and great writing! kudos!

  30. Posted May 2, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Dear Joumana – Never has it happened that I have visited your blog and not learned something.

    I am sorry to sound like a broken record but I am always in awe of your cooking skills and your creativity.

    Once again this is a marvelous preparation with the most wonderful flavors. Pasta in phyllo! Who would have thought? Only you!

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  31. Posted May 2, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    I love your stories! I haven’t had that dish in ages. My mom used to make it in a casserole style, also baked but without the wrap. So cool :)

  32. Posted May 2, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    what a surprise. I was sure the spaghetti cake was not the first picture, but now I am intrigued. This looks delicious!

  33. Posted May 2, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Very nice and I want a peace.Kisses

  34. Posted May 2, 2010 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Wow! That looks so beautiful!Love the presentation….Great dish as usual :)

  35. Posted May 2, 2010 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Now that’s a thing of beauty!

  36. Posted May 2, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Oh I LOVE this pasta dish … never had it, but I know I could eat a lot of it!!

  37. Posted May 3, 2010 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    This looks absolutely delicious .. and the story connected to it makes it all the more interesting :-)

  38. Posted May 3, 2010 at 2:49 am | Permalink

    That cake is very original and looks really scrumptious! I love the idea!



  39. Posted May 3, 2010 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    This looks incredible! What a beautiful dish. I adore kashkaval. I worked with a group of Bulgarian girls years ago and they would have it shipped, since we couldn;t find it anywhere in New England. But since this cost a fortune, we found that soaking feta in water for a few hours to draw out the salt was a pretty close stand-in. Of course, when I went to Bulgaria to visit my former coworkers I learned that the real thing is SO much better!

  40. Posted May 3, 2010 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    You know, in Poland we have a cheese called “kaszkwal” but I doubt it has something to do with your cheese (besides the similar name).
    This pasta cake idea is very interesting,I hope I could do this one day….I have never experimented with phyllo (although I know this kind of preparation). Kind regards!

  41. Posted May 3, 2010 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Wow this is one of those must try recipes and it will be one that i thoroughly enjoy, thanks for the great idea of spaghetti cooked in phyllo. Absolute magic.

  42. Posted May 3, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    No wonder your dad loved this pasta.

  43. Posted May 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Lovely story about Fotini — and I’m totally in love with this spaghetti cake. It really looks delicious.

  44. Posted May 3, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Oh wow. This is like magic! It’s the timpani from Big Night, Lebanese style. At the risk of sounding over-the-top,(I can be a bit of a drag queen!) this is kind of showstopping.

  45. Posted May 4, 2010 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Just a brilliant beautiful pasta dish. In my house, this would be made for a special celebration meal it is so wonderful. I love the Lebanese flavors in it. Perfect for Natasha’s 5 Star Foodie pasta contest.

  46. Posted May 4, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Wow, this looks absolutely amazing! I love everything about this Spaghetti cake … and adore the story behind it.

    I have made an Angel Hair pasta pie a number of times but always use a thicker puff pastry to encase the pie and make it in a springform pan. But now I really want to make one with phyllo and showcase it in a bundt pan … it looks so much nicer your way!

  47. Posted May 25, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    WOW, what an impressive dish!!

  48. Posted December 14, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Quel délicieux gâteau, tout comme je les aiment…un article qui mérite son nombre de commentaires, bises et belle soirée

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