While Maltese cuisine can often be mistaken for basic Mediterranean/Italian fare, it certainly has its signature unique dishes. Pastizzi, for instance, are the classic Maltese street food: crisp, buttery pastries filled variously with ricotta, mashed curried peas or other fillings.

Another Maltese classic is Ghagin Fil Forn (the first word is pronounced Hha’ahzheen) or baked macaroni. No Maltese family gathering is complete without a massive dish of baked macaroni, usually dished up in housebrick-sized servings – along with the promise that “There’s plenty more! Eat, eat.”

Basically this is a bolognese-style sauce that is mixed with eggs and cheese, stirred through cooked pasta and then baked in the oven. I like to add extras like chopped pepperoni or bacon, but the sauce can be as plain or fancy as you prefer.

In its most traditional form, baked macaroni reflects another, very late influence on Maltese peasant food: the English occupation and World War II, which incorporated Bulu Bijf – otherwise known as tinned corned beef. Although, we stopped cooking it with that after one of the kids found a piece of artery in their serving. Now we make it exclusively with minced beef, or a mixed of beef and pork mince.

Vegetarians can, of course, drop the meat altogether and just use a rich tomato sauce.

Ingredients (amounts are pretty flexible):

  • 500–600 g (5–6 cups) of macaroni or rigatoni
  • Water to cook
  • Olive oil
  • 500–750 g of minced beef, or mixed beef/pork mince
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic (sliced or crushed)
  • 1 can of tomatoes or jar of passata
  • Generous dollop of tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oregano and/or basil, optional
  • 1 cup of peas
  • 3 tbsp of grated Parmesan
  • 4 eggs, beaten til frothy


Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the pasta. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and put aside. While the pasta is cooking, fry the onions and garlic in the oil until soft. Add the meat and brown. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper and any herbs. Leave the sauce to simmer for a good 20 minutes or more, to bring out the flavour.

Empty the cooked pasta into a large baking dish and stir through the sauce with the peas and Parmesan (you can also add a handful of mozarella, if you like). Stir through the beaten eggs, reserving about 1 egg’s worth.

Once everything is mixed thoroughly, spread the remaining beaten egg lightly across the top, making sure it doesn’t sink right into the mix. This makes the top layer of pasta extra crispy, which many swear is the best bit.

Bake in the oven for about half an hour, until everything is bound together firmly and the top is nice and crisp, even a little bit burnt.

Serve it up by the brick and enjoy with a glass of good red plonk. A few shakes of hot sauce on top doesn’t go astray, either.

Baked macaroni freezes well and heats up perfectly in the microwave, so always make enough to allow for a day or two of lunches.

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Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In the last decade...