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persian makaroni with red lentil bolognese
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Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1.5 hours

Servings: 6


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Step 1

Finely dice 1 medium yellow onion and 1 medium celery stick. Peel 1 medium carrot if desired and grate on the large holes of a box grater. Grate 1 medium zucchini on the same holes. Crush 4 garlic cloves.

Step 2

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large wide, high-sided skillet or saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and cook until translucent, 8 to 10 minutes.

Step 3

Add celery and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric and stir to combine.

Step 4

Add 3/4 cup dried red lentils and stir until combined. Add 2 cups vegetable stock, 1 can diced tomatoes and their juices, 2 bay leaves, and 1/8 teaspoon ground saffron. Add 1 cup water to the empty tomato can, swirl it a little bit, and pour into the lentils. Add 2 tablespoons tomato paste and stir to combine.

Step 5

Add 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup, 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and stir to combine. Bring to a rapid simmer, then turn the heat down to low. Cover and cook until the lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta.

Step 6

Bring a large nonstick pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat (this pot will also be the pan you steam the final Makaroni dish in to create the cake-style tahdig, so ideally one with a glass lid). Add 1 pound spaghetti and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta.

Step 7

Wipe out the pot. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and brush the oil all over the bottom and up the sides of the pot. Arrange enough cooked spaghetti in the pot to form a 1/3-inch thick layer.

Step 8

Taste and season the lentil bolognese with kosher salt as needed. Turn off the heat. Add the remaining spaghetti and toss to combine. Transfer half into the pot and spread into an even layer over the plain spaghetti. Layer 7 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese onto the Bolognese spaghetti in the pot. Top with the remaining Bolognese spaghetti.

Step 9

Cover and cook over medium to medium-high heat until it starts to steam. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Wrap the lid in a kitchen towel and place back on the pot. Cook undisturbed for 45 minutes to 1 hour for a crust to form.

Step 10

Remove from the heat and uncover. Invert a large plate that’s wider than the pot onto the pot. Grasping both the plate and pot with oven mitts, carefully and quickly flip both over in one motion. Remove the pot. Serve with pickles, a salad with citrus dressing, or just a dollop of ketchup.

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