“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 Kashkavalcheese?
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
106 Comments • Comments Feed
Dear Joumana – What a wonderful story…it was a bit deja vu. We had a ‘Fontini’ in our home too growing up 🙂 The pasta has the most delightful ingredients and I am definitely going to buy the cheese when I go to the halal market this weekend to get mutton (baby goat)…can’t wait. It is long overdue and I can almost see bellies being rubbed after the meal!
Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors
On April 29, 2010 at 10:17 pm
Angie's Recipes says:
They just took Fotini’s gold coins and gave her a bunch of paper bills instead?? HOW COULD THE BANK DO THAT WITH THEIR CUSTOMERS?????? Oh GOD….no wonder my mum never trusts the banks…
On April 29, 2010 at 10:22 pm
Haven’t tried cooking macoroni with lamb. This looks delicious!
On April 29, 2010 at 10:56 pm
what a great story..she fainted really?? oh my lol, great recipe as always..
On April 29, 2010 at 11:17 pm
Funny story about Fotini. This cheese is also made in Cyprus and is called kaskavalli. When I made a post about Greek and Cypriot cheeses I found information about this cheese and it seems to have originated from the Italian caccio cavallo. http://kopiaste.org/2009/09/greek-and-cypriot-cheeses/
On April 29, 2010 at 11:17 pm
Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie) says:
What a great story! She knew she had the power! Poor gal though, expecting to see her gold! This is a lot like pastitsio.
On April 30, 2010 at 12:14 am
Sushma Mallya says:
Recipe seems nice, will try veg version of this
On April 30, 2010 at 12:18 am
I really loved your Fotini story!
Btw, is the method of the recipe missing, or am I just missing it?
On April 30, 2010 at 3:18 am
Oh poor Fotini !!! Another great recipe from you…It looks delicious
On April 30, 2010 at 3:52 pm
A Canadian Foodie says:
My daughter would LOVE this recipe. I am sending her the link now.
On April 30, 2010 at 4:06 pm
Love the story and the recipe is getting made this weekend… you answered the question that was on my mind… if not chicken… what? Wonderful combination but I wonder what Greeks used before tomatoes!
On April 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm
This recipe is wonderful and very elegant to display, I have to admit that I select meals to make for dinner parties based on how impressively they present and are healthy, I am just that kind of girl. Sit back and enjoy all the oohs and ahs of your guests as you bring this dish to the table.It is almost too pretty to eat, and it is very appealing to the eye. thank you kindly.
On April 30, 2010 at 6:45 pm
Kackavalj…reminds me of my childhood:))) Here (in German) is very seldom.
On April 30, 2010 at 7:38 pm
The Nervous Cook says:
Oh wow — what a great story, and what an incredible, unusual and delicious-looking dish! I love the cross-section photo of the sliced spaghetti cake.
On April 30, 2010 at 9:10 pm
oh she sounds like a fun lady and wow this is the coolest thing ever adore it
On April 30, 2010 at 9:14 pm
Tangled Noodle says:
Such a lovely reminiscence about Fotini (except for the unfortunate episode at the bank). This spaghetti cake is so striking – I must make this . . .!
On April 30, 2010 at 9:41 pm
Sushma Mallya says:
looks like a lot of work but worth making it..looks very beautiful and so unique
On April 30, 2010 at 10:28 pm
Love the story behind this dish…and a new cheese introduced! Ooh la la! kashkaval cheese…I love all the new things I’m learning from your blog.
On April 30, 2010 at 10:41 pm
Hélène (Cannes) says:
Les recettes accompagnées de belles histoires familiales sont toujours les meilleures, pour moi ! Et ce plat est absolument terrible ! Je dois juste aller me renseigner un peu plus sur ce fromage, pour pouvoir essayer à mon tour … En tout cas bravo, c’est beau, c’est bon ? Que demander de plus ? Je reviendrai souvent me promener par ici, je crois bien ! ;o)
On May 1, 2010 at 12:06 am
Loved reading your post! And this spaghetti cake looks fabulous!!
Kashkaval is my favorite cheese!!
On May 1, 2010 at 1:31 am
The KitchenMasochist says:
This looks easy enough to make but as always, Middle Eastern ingredients, let alone Bulgarian cheese, are pretty hard to come by here in the Far East.
I really need to bug my mom about another care package.
They do something like this with noodles at Japanese sushi houses in this region. They take soba noodles instead of rice and make them into sushi rolls. It looks quite beautiful once they’re sliced.
On May 1, 2010 at 3:58 am
The only baked pasta dish I’ve ever come across is lasagna… how boring! This looks amazing – the cross-section shot makes me giggle for some reason. All those squiggly worms!
On May 1, 2010 at 6:07 am
Cathy at Wives with says:
This looks absolutely delicious. Love pasta and lamb and your story that goes along with it. I hope I can find this cheese.
On May 1, 2010 at 7:45 am
I don’t really have a sweet tooth so this has to be one of the most droolworthy cakes I have seen in a while. Super creative!
On May 1, 2010 at 7:52 am
A wonderful story and an amazing recipe. I love discovering new things, espcially with phyllo. Your photos are so beautiful and inspiring.
On May 1, 2010 at 7:53 am
Amy @ cookbookmaniac says:
THis is such and interesting and refreshing way of serving pasta. Your photos make the dish look so delicious!
On May 1, 2010 at 8:10 am
This is wonderful! I can see why this dish made an indelible impression on your dad. I would love to try the kashkaval cheese, too. There is a cafe called Kashkaval in nyc (on 9th ave in the mid-50s) that serves terrific Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. They offer a large selection of to-go items, including cheeses, so next time I’m in the neighborhood I will look for kashkaval.
On May 1, 2010 at 8:54 am
Turkish Food Passion says:
I have never seen such a recipe for pasta, but it looks spectacular!
On May 1, 2010 at 8:55 am
Je te souhaite plein de bonheur pour ce 1er mai ! Dommage que le soleil ne soit pas au rendez-vous…
On May 1, 2010 at 9:05 am
Awesome dish! Thanks, I am really getting an education on your site with the recipes. Keep up the fantastic work (and I forgive your pre-made phyllo tresspass;-) )
On May 1, 2010 at 9:45 am
I love how well you wove taht story into the glorious food. This cake reminds me of a sweet version I ate in Cratia. I was so impressed that I asked for the recipe. I got the recipe, but unfortunately it is in Croation and I just look at it trying to figure it out! Someday I’ll get it translated. GREG
On May 1, 2010 at 10:10 am
recettes gourmandes says:
belle histoire, j’ai bien voyagé dans le temps.
Le plat est excelent , rien à dire, très originale, j’aime beaucoup, bravo
On May 1, 2010 at 10:14 am
asia jo says:
What a lovely family story …. I love when there is a personal story attached to a recipe … that makes cooking even more exciting 🙂 Your pasta cake looks beautiful and I would love to be eating a piece of it now 🙂 xxx
On May 1, 2010 at 11:19 am
funny that you came across my little hidden place (thank you for your nice words) … because Lebanese food has always been (since I tried it the first time) one of my three favorite world food 🙂
therefore i’m delighted to click back and discover your site !
On May 1, 2010 at 12:02 pm
Merci pour ton commentaire sur mon blog. Et très sincèrement je suis aussi ravie de découvrir le tien qui tout à fait dans l’esprit que je recherche.. Je le mets dans mes favoris. Cette recette est terrible, et le kaskhaval est aussi un fromage que l’on trouve en Serbie et que j’achète ici dans la supérette turque où je m’approvisionne…alors inutile de te dire que je vais tester cette recette très très rapidement! Bonne soirée et merci!!
On May 1, 2010 at 12:58 pm
Gosh – it looks very very impressive! Love the photos!
On May 1, 2010 at 1:56 pm
I can’t say what I liked more, the story of Fotini or this incredible sounding recipe you shared with us. I have to make it – your dad’s commitment to this dish and the story of the fainting reminds me of the Greek dish, imam baildi, apropros of nothing. It translates to mean the “priest has fainted” because the dish was so exceptional, which this dish sounds like it is akin to. Thank you!
On May 1, 2010 at 3:06 pm
That’s a gorgeous mold! I will try making a vegetarian version 🙂
On May 1, 2010 at 3:16 pm
What a fantastic unique recipe! The other night I made standard baked penne, but this looks and sounds wonderful and so much more interesting. Funny story about Fotina and you dad, I love recipes that have memories attached to them.
On May 1, 2010 at 3:56 pm
O wow this is delicious family style dish! I saw something similar on Picky palate where she is used garlic breadstick dough instead of the phyllo you are using. I was not really impressed with it … but as I see yours … esp with the Kashkaval cheese … this is looking good to me!
On May 1, 2010 at 4:44 pm
I LOVE this story! And the dish makes me weak in the knees…..I want to try this!
On May 1, 2010 at 6:10 pm
So beautiful. This would go great with rice I’m sure.
On May 1, 2010 at 8:39 pm
THIS looks so interesting. And so delicious. On my to make list.
On May 1, 2010 at 9:24 pm
What a wonderfully unique way of serving pasta. Love it! And loved the story – esp. the part where she fainted, lol.
On May 1, 2010 at 10:24 pm
Fantastic pasta dish and a wonderful entry into the 5 star pasta makeover challenge. Good luck to you. Cheers!
On May 1, 2010 at 11:07 pm
tom tall clover farm says:
What a fun story, and an equally delicious recipe. I’ve never had such a dish, but look forward to changing that very soon. I just had some delicous lamb this evening, and it just wasn’t enough. So guess what’s on the menu for Sunday dinner? Perhaps Spaghetti cake! Thank you.
On May 1, 2010 at 11:19 pm
Conor @Hold the Beef says:
Hehe, poor old Fotini with her new fangled notes! I hope she came to see the blessing of not having to carry 5 tonne of coins with her 😉
I agree with others that this is a very interesting looking dish, and I think if it were served to me I’d be sighing like your dad (but my sigh would be in pleasure at the dish in front of me, not in my memory!)
On May 2, 2010 at 1:31 am
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:
Gorgeous cross section pic Joumana, you know as I was reading it (and good that Fotini wasn’t a former girlfriend of your dad’s for your mum’s sake!) I was so intrigued to see what it would look like! 😀
On May 2, 2010 at 2:41 am
This looks magnificent! Really tasty looking – I bet the softness of the spaghetti and crispness of the filo go together beautifully. We buy Kashkval regularly; I never looked at the ingredients so I didn’t realise I have been eating sheep’s milk cheese!
On May 2, 2010 at 2:49 am
Cela semble délicieux ! Je ne connaissais pas du tout !
On May 2, 2010 at 3:17 am
Simply Life says:
WOW! This is so beautiful I might actually feel bad cutting into it (but not bad enough) 🙂 It looks amazing!
On May 2, 2010 at 4:46 am
I am seriously groaning here. Really. I love baked pasta normally, but with lamb and this delicious cheese? Amazing.
On May 2, 2010 at 5:42 am
What a great story! I have not seen pasta prepared like this before. What a beautiful dish.
On May 2, 2010 at 6:23 am
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.
On May 2, 2010 at 6:23 am
miss cook says:
hello, very cook…
On May 2, 2010 at 6:57 am
What a great story! Fotini’s macaroni looks fantastic!
On May 2, 2010 at 7:08 am
What a lovely story! I’ve never thought of baking pasta in phyllo before. It looks like Fontini was on to something!
On May 2, 2010 at 8:09 am
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!
On May 2, 2010 at 8:13 am
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.
On May 2, 2010 at 8:56 am
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.
On May 2, 2010 at 9:44 am
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
On May 2, 2010 at 10:51 am
Very good and nice presentation for a Spaghetti dish!
On May 2, 2010 at 10:55 am
This is so clever! The end result looks like a dessert, I would love to make this to trick some of my friends with.
On May 2, 2010 at 10:58 am
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!
On May 2, 2010 at 10:59 am
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
On May 2, 2010 at 11:00 am
Superbe cette recette!, Quelle originalité!
On May 2, 2010 at 11:42 am
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!
On May 2, 2010 at 11:43 am
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.
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 !!!
Patricia – La Table de Pénélope
On May 2, 2010 at 12:44 pm
what a beautiful pasta dish..never seen this dish..
On May 2, 2010 at 12:45 pm
I love your blog! I will be checking it often.
On May 2, 2010 at 12:50 pm
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 🙂
On May 2, 2010 at 12:53 pm
5 Star Foodie says:
Wow, an amazing spaghetti cake, I love that the whole thing is encased in phyllo, how delicious!
On May 2, 2010 at 1:33 pm
C’est une recette très originale !!!!!
Bravo pour cette réalisation !
Je te souhaite une très belle soirée,
On May 2, 2010 at 2:38 pm
What an amazing dish! I love the story, too.
On May 2, 2010 at 3:06 pm
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.
On May 2, 2010 at 3:32 pm
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.
On May 2, 2010 at 4:04 pm
tu m’épates avec tes plats très originaux, chez toi on est sûr de pouvoir régaler nos papilles et nos pupilles, j’aime beaucoup
On May 2, 2010 at 4:14 pm
Me, Myself & Pie says:
Wow. So much better than spaghetti with Prego! This is beautiful and I can just imagine how tasty it is!
On May 2, 2010 at 4:39 pm
Skip to Malou says:
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!
On May 2, 2010 at 5:52 pm
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
On May 2, 2010 at 7:18 pm
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 🙂
On May 2, 2010 at 7:41 pm
what a surprise. I was sure the spaghetti cake was not the first picture, but now I am intrigued. This looks delicious!
On May 2, 2010 at 7:51 pm
Very nice and I want a peace.Kisses
On May 2, 2010 at 8:20 pm
Wow! That looks so beautiful!Love the presentation….Great dish as usual 🙂
On May 2, 2010 at 8:30 pm
Now that’s a thing of beauty!
On May 2, 2010 at 9:12 pm
Oh I LOVE this pasta dish … never had it, but I know I could eat a lot of it!!
On May 2, 2010 at 10:32 pm
This looks absolutely delicious .. and the story connected to it makes it all the more interesting 🙂
On May 3, 2010 at 12:47 am
That cake is very original and looks really scrumptious! I love the idea!
On May 3, 2010 at 2:49 am
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!
On May 3, 2010 at 6:49 am
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!
On May 3, 2010 at 8:06 am
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.
On May 3, 2010 at 8:59 am
No wonder your dad loved this pasta.
On May 3, 2010 at 2:15 pm
Joan Nova says:
Lovely story about Fotini — and I’m totally in love with this spaghetti cake. It really looks delicious.
On May 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm
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.
On May 3, 2010 at 6:48 pm
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.
On May 4, 2010 at 5:51 am
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!
On May 4, 2010 at 11:33 am
Amber @Almost Vegan says:
WOW, what an impressive dish!!
On May 25, 2010 at 11:22 am
Quel délicieux gâteau, tout comme je les aiment…un article qui mérite son nombre de commentaires, bises et belle soirée
On December 14, 2011 at 11:28 am
Thank you for the great article. Let’s continue to grow.
On July 25, 2018 at 8:44 am
Your food is great, write more about other dishes too
On August 21, 2018 at 11:15 am
Regardless of whether it’s far delivered from bovine, sheep or goat’s milk, the Bulgarian Kashkaval Cheese is reasonable to get ready for toasts, sandwiches, pizzas, ground or bread-scraps stock.
Kashkaval Cheese is a splendid wellspring of Vitamin B, calcium and protein .
On November 16, 2019 at 12:43 pm