This traditional Greek pasta is an exquisite signature dish of the Mediterranean way of eating: it uses the simplest of ingredients and takes no more than 15 minutes to prepare. It has all you want for a healthy and super delicious meal. It is called “Tsouhti” and it originates from Mani in southern mainland Greece. It is difficult to translate the name of this dish but it is believed that it is called Tsouhti from the sound of the seared cheese-butter-olive oil mixture when it meets hot pasta.
Food is strongly related to territory, national identity and shaped by several social, economic and cultural factors. I will show exactly what I mean if you join me on a small flashback trip to Mani in the 1960s. Ready? Perfect! Let’s go!
We are in a small village in Mani, located in the south of Greece. This winter was extremely harsh and all crop and produce were gone. The spring is yet to come. Imagine all you got for dinner is flour, eggs, olive oil and dairy products like sheep milk, butter (animal fat), and cheese. NOTHING ELSE. You see, refrigerators haven’t yet arrived at this isolated corner of the world, no hypermarkets around and even if there were, all you have is your land, your hands, and mind. Will you face starvation or will you find the best way to use these ingredients? Right decision.
These conditions shaped one of the most scrumptious and healthy ways of eating: the Mediterranean way, a peasant-style (or poor man’s) diet abundant in whatever nature provides and human hands make. Despite poverty and difficult living conditions, these people were eating nutritious and delicious food out of a handful of ingredients. Their brilliant way of cooking and the respect of the ingredients would have amazed the most experienced chef. The no-waste food cooking was extremely important for surviving and making the difference between hunger and satiety. We have so much to learn from this way of living. Personally, I find it really fascinating!
No more trips. Let’s go back to our kitchen, roll up your sleeves and cook this amazing dish. All you need is pasta, grated mizithra cheese, eggs, olive oil and/or butter. Oh… and 15-20 minutes of your time.
THE MIZITHRA CHEESE
The traditional Greek pasta calls for an aged, dried cheese with rock hard texture and salty taste called mizithra or myzithra. It is a Greek cheese of course extremely popular in Greece and closely related to pasta dishes. I know that some might not easily find it. In that case, aged Pecorino Romano is a good substitute. Both are widely used grated in pasta and they are popular for their strong, distinctive flavor.
For this post’s pasta, I used a traditional, local product called “Striftadia” meaning “twisted”. It is a centuries-old pasta, rolled by hand, hence its name, coming from the South Peloponnese. The thickness and shape of this pasta are excellent because they hold any kind of sauce and absorbs perfectly all flavor. You may find artisanal Greek products in Greek delis or online. However, feel free to substitute this traditional product with rigatoni, tortiglioni, orecchiette, cavatelli, chiocciole, etc. Any tubular shaped pasta with ridges will catch all the “cheese-butter mixture” so that every bite is saucy enough to be scrumptious.
READY! NOW, WHAT?
Best served hot, right from the pot with a vibrant cabbage salad. Finally, serve it with a glass of cold white wine, preferably a Moschofilero which is perfect for this dish.
I hope you like this amazing recipe as much as I do. Feel free to ask me anything you want regarding the cooking procedure or the ingredients. I will be happy to assist you. Tag me in the social media of your choice (Instagram and Facebook) and show me your creations. Or follow my Pinterest account because almost 5.500 Mediterranean friendly recipes are waiting for you.
SIMPLEST TRADITIONAL GREEK PASTA
- 1 pound (500g) pasta *
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 tablespoons mizithra cheese or aged Pecorino Romano grated
- 2-4 eggs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil for frying the eggs
- Pepper, freshly ground to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente or your preferable texture. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the mizithra or pecorino cheese and immediately reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally until the cheese is golden brown but don’t overcook it (the cheese will be bitter). Turn off the heat and add immediately the pasta in the skillet. Please be careful not to burn yourself. Add plenty of freshly ground pepper.
- In another skillet add olive oil and fry the eggs over medium. Place them on top of the pasta. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper. Serve hot.