Dishes made with flour, better known as 'hamur isleri' (ham-OOR' eesh-LEYR'-ee), or 'dough works,' have always been popular in Turkish cuisine. Everything from meat-filled dumplings, dried homestyle noodles and tasty layered cheese pies made from freshly rolled out sheets 'yufka' (yoof-KAH'), or fresh dough have been prepared in Turkish kitchens for centuries.
However, Italian-style fresh and dry pasta, or 'makarna' (mah-KAR'-nah), has only worked its way into Turkish cuisine during the mid-20th century. Even so, 'makarna' has become just as popular as the classic dishes and is now part of Turkish practical cuisine.
Dry pasta is sold everywhere in most shapes and forms, like spaghetti, linguine, penne, elbows, bow-ties, corkscrews, alphabets and other familiar shapes. Some varieties are also manufactured according to Turkish preferences like orzo, fine noodles for soup and oven pasta. Most larger supermarkets also carry an array of ready, jarred sauces from classic tomato, pesto and spicy arabbiata-type sauces.
Even so, the most popular way to eat pasta involves none of these modern conveniences. The "Turkish way" to eat cooked pasta is to toss it with some oil and salt, then add about a tablespoon of crumbled Turkish white cheese, similar to Feta, on top.
Then, top it off with a generous blob to tomato ketchup. Pasta is served this way nearly everywhere from school and workplace cafeterias, to simple restaurants serving Turkish fare. Ask any child if they want 'makarna' for dinner and this is what they'll ask for.
Another Turkish pasta dish is called 'fırın makarna' (fur-UN' mah-KAR'-nah), or 'oven pasta.' This delicious side dish is another children's favorite. It most resembles macaroni and cheese. It features dry pasta that's slightly thicker than spaghetti and has a hollow center, like a long, narrow tube.
After boiling the pasta tubes, they are baked in the oven in a Bechamel sauce containing milk and cheese. The result is a rich, puffy, creamy side dish that goes well with any meat meal. It's also great on its own, with a squeeze of guess what? Ketchup.
- 1 package pasta (Turkish ‘firin makarna,’ spaghetti, elbow pasta or penne)
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp. butter or margarine
- 4 tbsp. flour
- 5 cups whole milk
- 2 cups grated cheese (or cheeses of your choice)
- 1/2 tsp. salt (more or less to taste)
- White pepper to taste (fresh ground)
- 2 cups grated cheese (or cheeses of your choice, for the topping)
- First, cook the pasta in salted water for eight to ten minutes until tender. Drain it and rinse under cold water. Toss it with the vegetable oil the first two cups of the grated cheese in a large mixing bowl. The cheese should have enough salt to season the pasta, but you can add salt and pepper to your taste.
- Butter the bottom and sides of a large glass or ceramic baking dish and add the pasta mixture.
- To prepare the Bechamel sauce, melt the butter or margarine in a small saucepan. Add the flour and stir until bubbly. Don't let the flour darken or burn.
- Turn the heat to low, add the milk and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the salt and pepper and continue whisking until the mixture scalds and begins to thicken. Don't let it boil. Continue until you have a smooth, white sauce. Adjust the salt to your taste.
- Pour the hot Bechamel over the pasta and gently turn over the pasta to combine them, if needed. Cover the top of the pasta with the remaining two cups of grated cheese. Bake in a 350° F/ 170°C oven until the dish is firm and the top is golden brown.
- Remove the dish from the oven and let it rest about ten minutes before serving. Cut it squares or serve it with a spoon.