Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dish #2: Albania - Tavë Me Presh with Pappardelle

Today's country is Albania.  I chose to make Tavë Me Presh, which is ground meat (beef or lamb) baked with leeks.  I found some lovely leeks in the supermarket down the street from our house.  We are really fortunate in Southern California to have easy access to amazing produce of all kinds. I do get nostalgic about the incredibly fresh and free range-by-default meat and poultry I ate all the time growing up that my parents would purchase at an Amish market in my hometown, but I sure don't miss the pathetically bland tomatoes and the withered little $4 avocados. 

I found no clear consensus on what to serve with Tavë Me Presh.  I think many people may just eat it on its own, as though it was a stew.  It wasn't brothy enough for us to consider doing that.  A number of bloggers who cooked Tavë Me Presh said that they found it heavy, which to us, it was not at all - maybe I am showing my American bias here, but something with no cheese, cream, or butter, that uses lean meat and a reasonable amount of oil, isn't likely to be heavy to me, unless I eat it by the gallon.  Others ate it with a salad, or after consuming a meze platter of meats, cheeses, peppers, and olives - but we need a starch.  Some people opted for mashed potatoes, which I was considering until I saw someone suggest tagliatelle.  That started the wheels turning in my head.  Maybe pasta is not the most authentic accompaniment to this dish, but I am determined to use my bread machine at every possible opportunity, so I decided to make pasta dough in it. 

Once the dough was ready, I rolled it out in my pasta machine and used the pappardelle attachment.  I chose to make pappardelle instead of tagliatelle because Brandy, my friend who is doing the A-to-Z challenge and inspired me to join her in the project, gave us the attachment as a wedding gift last year... so in a way, she doubly influenced this meal! 

I know I am taking some license here by making pasta.  However, I can easily see Tavë Me Presh as a ragout of sorts, so it does work food-wise, and there are Mediterranean influences all over Albanian cuisine.  Albania's Adriatic coast is only 45 miles from Italy.  It also worked great time management-wise, because I could work on the pasta while it was in the oven.  That way I didn't have a traffic jam in my kitchen where I was ever working on both components at the same time.  Making the pasta dough in the bread machine helped a lot with this also.

We both loved this dish.  It was simple but hearty and full of flavor.  The leeks were sweet and buttery, and the pasta was silky smooth from cooking in olive oiled-water.  Making pasta dough in the bread machine is amazing!

Tavë Me Presh (recipe from The Recipe Queen)

1/2 cup olive oil
4 leeks, cut into 1 inch slices
1 onion, roughly chopped
1/2 pound ground lamb or beef (I used 96/4 beef)
1/2 cup stock (I had chicken stock that needed to go, so that's what I used, with a couple of dashes of worchestershire sauce)
2 T tomato paste
2 red peppers, de-seeded and chopped (we don't like peppers so I left them out)
Salt and pepper for seasoning (I also added garlic powder and onion powder)

Pre-heat the oven on to 375° F.

Heat half the oil in a large pan and fry the leeks on a low heat until soft.  Transfer the leeks to a baking dish, draining excess oil.  Season the leeks.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan and fry the onions and ground meat until browned.  Drain excess oil.  Add the tomato paste, red peppers, seasoning, and stock, and bring to a boil.  Pour the mixture over the leeks, cover, and bake for 1 hour.

Pappardelle (basic pasta recipe and technique for making the dough in the bread machine from Robbie Ferguson)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 T water

Add all ingredients to bread machine, and set to dough mode. 
If dough is too dry upon completion of bread machine cycle, add water 1/2 T at a time.  If it is too wet, add flour 1/2 T at a time.

Start a pot of water to boil and season with salt and olive oil, if desired.

Roll the dough in flour, and place on a floured cutting surface (I use parchment paper underneath any dough I work with because I don't like getting flour all over my limited counter space).  Cut the dough into quarters.  Roll each piece in flour.  With floured hands, gently stretch/roll the dough into a rectangular shape, continuing to roll it in flour as needed.

Start pressing the pasta, one quarter at a time, through the pasta machine at the widest setting, gradually narrowing your settings until pasta sheets are long, thin, and semi-translucent (I have an Atlas Wellness 150 - which I highly recommend to anyone - and I start at 0, rolling the sheet through twice on each setting up to 7).

Cut each sheet into 2 short sheets (8 inches or less in length).  Attach the pappardelle cutter and run each short sheet through the attachment.

Drop cut pasta immediately into boiling water and stir so that the noodles don't clump together.  Cook for 3 minutes or until al dente, strain, and serve immediately.


  1. That looks amazing!!! You didn't make it in the pasta dish I got you for your wedding, did you? (I forgot actually what I got you...)

    1. You got us a chitarra (pasta cutter) and a pappardelle attachment for our pasta machine. I used the pappardelle attachment to make the pasta!