On the beautiful Ionian island of Corfu, one of the nicest islands of Greece, “pastitsatha” is served at all kinds of festivities. It can be made with red meat, poultry, and even seafood. Of course, farm-raised rooster is always preferred. Be generous with the spices since they add the recipe’s characteristic flavor. This recipe won’t take you longer than 1 hour if you cook slowly.
- 9-10 pounds of rooster (or chicken)fresh preferably, cut in serving sized pieces
- 1 pound of thick pasta (or if you can find ziti pasta, it’s fine)
- 5 ripe tomatoes, grated or chopped in blender
- 4 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 8 onions, cut in chunks
- 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 pound of salty Greek “kefalotyri” cheese (or pecorino), grated
- 1 shot glass of brandy
- 1 tablespoon of black pepper
- 1 teaspoon of spicy red pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon of whole cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of fresh basil (if you cannot find fresh, add dried)
- Some extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Search for a Greek one, it’s better
Prepare 6 1/3 cups of hot water. In a wide casserole heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom, add the rooster or chicken and cook until browned at all sides. Remove it and set aside. In the still hot oil, sauté the onion and garlic (be careful not to burn the garlic). Stir in the basil, red pepper, and brandy. Return meat to the casserole and add enough hot water to almost cover the meat. Sprinkle all the remaining spices evenly over the top (black pepper, cinnamon, whole cloves, nutmeg). Stir the meat gently to evenly distribute spices. Cover and simmer for approximately 45 minutes. When the meat is tender and can be pierced with a fork, add the tomato paste, tomatoes, and a generous tablespoon of salt. Continue to cook for 10 minutes. Fill a second casserole with salted water to cook the pasta. Cook according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, remove the rooster meat from the casserole with the sauce using a large fork, and place on a platter. When the pasta is ready, drain well and add to the first casserole with the sauce. Stir well and remove from heat. To serve in a traditional way, place a serving of pasta on a large, clay plate, top with a serving of chicken, and sprinkle with grated cheese.
*Tips: The salt is not added at the start as it will toughen the meat during cooking.