Pastitsatha was the traditional Sunday meal of Corfu’s well-to-do. It was almost always made with free-range cock or with turkey, which Corfiotes hold in particularly high esteem. Thick tubular spaghetti is needed for this dish. According to island cooks, a proper pastitsatha requires no fewer than 9 spices: allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, nutmeg, paprika, cayenne, salt, and black pepper.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- One 3 – to 3 1/2 -pound chicken, cut into stewing pieces (fat trimmed and skin removed,if desired)
- 3 cups coarsely chopped red onions
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- Cayenne pepper to taste
- 2 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes(canned are fine)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 to 6 allspice berries, to taste
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste diluted with
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 pound tubular spaghetti, like bucatini
- Grated kefalotyri or any hard yellow cheese
1. In a large stewing pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then brown the chicken pieces on all sides in batches. Remove from the pot and drain on paper towels to remove excess oil.
2. Add the onions to the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir until wilted, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, nutmeg, paprika, cloves, and cayenne and stir for a minute, just enough to open up their aroma. Add the chicken back to the pot and pour in the tomatoes. Add the cinnamon stick, allspice, salt, and enough water to cover the chicken. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the chicken is tender, about 40 minutes. Before removing the chicken from the heat, stir in the diluted tomato paste and add 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and the black pepper. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning as desired, with a bit more vinegar or with the sugar if it is too pungent.
3. While the chicken is cooking, heat a large pot of salted water for the pasta. Boil the pasta until al dente and drain. To serve, place pasta on individual plates or on a large serving platter with the chicken and sauce over it. Sprinkle with grated cheese.