One might think of church bingo nights as an “old people” activity. I’ve been bingo-ing since childhood. Not just any bingo, mind you. Pasta bingo.
One of the charity groups at our church holds bingo game nights as a fundraiser a few times a year. It’s a fun time meant for families to gather together for some friendly (ha! yeah, right) competition to see who can get to Bingo before everyone else and have their pick from a hodge-podge, mish-mash array of donated items for prizes. Sometimes you get a good prize, and sometimes, well… not so much.
The dinner is always pasta, hence the name “Pasta Bingo”. And again, not just any pasta. It’s always makaronia me kima (mah-kah-ROH-nee-ah meh kee-MAH), which translates to macaroni with ground meat. It may seem like regular spaghetti sauce, but it is flavored with cinnamon and oregano and is far more meaty than a typical spaghetti sauce. It’s often called the Greek version of Bolognese sauce, but unlike a true Bolognese there is no milk or cream added. However, it is a buttery sauce with a hefty addition of carrots which is where the similarities are strongest.
The aroma from the pasta sauce will always waft out of the kitchen at our church’s social hall, where it would have been simmering for a good long time. It is generously scooped onto a pile of buttered pasta and topped with a hefty dusting of Parmesan cheese (though grated kefalotyri or kefalograviera would be more authentic if you can find them). And then it is all slurped down so that the banging of the bingo cards can commence.
Some quick notes before you begin:
One of the characteristics of makaronia me kima sauce is that the meat is broken up into a fine texture. You don’t have lumps of meat. A paddle type spatula is handy for helping to break the meat up.
Often tomato paste is added to help concentrate the tomato flavor, but I seldom have tomato paste on hand. If you make sure you cook the sauce down the flavor will be concentrated without adding the paste. If you choose to add some, about 1 to 2 tablespoons is a good amount.
The carrots should be chopped into small pieces to allow for them to easily soften. They can also be very thinly sliced instead.
Any type of pasta could be used, but there is a type of Greek spaghetti that is a hollow tube that is more typically used. There are different thicknesses available, with thicker types used for a casserole called pastitsio. For this dish, the ones with the smaller diameter are best.
Makaronia me Kima (Greek Spaghetti with Meat Sauce) Recipe
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3/4 pound yellow onion, diced
- 4 to 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
- 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and finely chopped or thinly sliced
- 2 15-ounce cans of tomato sauce
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup burgundy wine
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. dried oregano, Greek preferred
- 1 to 2 bay leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- cooked pasta
Put butter and olive oil in a pan and heat till butter is melted. Add the onions and sauté until translucent and are just beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook just a minute more. Add the beef and cook until browned, breaking up the meat so that it is not lumpy.
Add the carrots, tomato sauce and tomatoes, wine, and seasonings. Mix all together until well combined. Turn the heat down to keep a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sauce is very thick.
Serve over pasta of choice and top with grated hard cheese like kefalotyri or parmesan. Enjoy!