Egyptian Macaroni Bil Laban

June  4, 2018
2 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Makes 1 9x13 dish
Author Notes

This is a simple, satisfying pastry from Damietta, Egypt that's served sweet, not savory. Think of it milky bar cookie with a crunchy exterior. —Ashley Hefnawy

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe is part of our storytelling series, My Family Recipe. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 8 ounces penne pasta
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons ghee, divided
  1. Heat the oven to 375° F and grease a 9 x 13 baking pan. Have a Ziploc bag and a hammer, or heavy object (like the bottom of a filled jar), at the ready.
  2. Crush dried penne pasta. It shouldn’t take too long, and it doesn’t need to look any specific way, just needs to be crushed so that it can blend together better in the mixture once you have it on the stove. (I find putting in a Ziplock bag and crushing with a hammer to be easiest.)
  3. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the pasta once water comes to boil and leave on medium heat to continue to boil. Stir the water to prevent noodles from sticking to the pan. You’ll want the pasta to become very soft and to boil off a lot of the water, about 15 minutes.
  4. Don’t drain the pasta. Adjust stove to medium-low heat. Add the milk while stirring. Continue stirring after milk is added and then add sugar.
  5. In a small mixing bowl, mix cornstarch with 1/4 cup water until well combined. Stir the cornstarch slurry mixture into the pasta on stove. Add 2 tablespoons ghee to the pasta.
  6. Continue to cook over medium-low heat while stirring until the milk has boiled and become very thick, about 5 minutes.
  7. Pour the pasta into the prepared baking pan.
  8. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons ghee either in microwave or in a small saucepan on stove. Pour melted ghee over your mixture in baking pan.
  9. Bake in oven until the bubbly and the top is beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. The ghee on top will turn golden brown, which is a good indicator of the finished product. The pastry will feel hollow when tapped. A chopstick or knife inserted will come out clean.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Zozo
  • Matt
  • Ashley Hefnawy
    Ashley Hefnawy
  • abi

6 Reviews

Zozo June 10, 2018
PS. This was actually a pretty handy technique for an alternative bechamel too which I used for a mac n cheese. The cornstarch made a much smoother sauce. Thanks for sharing!
Zozo June 10, 2018
Mmm made this with spiral pasta, jersey milk and a tiny bit of dark brown sugar to give it a little more caramel flavour. Heart eyes. Drool face. Such good comfort food! And such a lovely story to contemplate while gobbling it down :D

Best warm! I tried eating it cold and wouldn't recommend as the ghee on top (or in my case, butter) re-solidifies.
abi June 7, 2018
Think I try it. I like cheeseless mac and cheese. What can I use as an alternative to corn starch?
Ashley H. June 7, 2018
You might be able to get away with using flour instead, but it will likely warrant a longer cooker time for the mixture to solidify a bit before baking.
Matt June 5, 2018
This is so cool. Does the pasta need to be penne since it's smashed? Or will other shapes do.
Ashley H. June 6, 2018
Other shapes will do! I asked my mom last night actually (as we baked it together), and she said penne and elbow pasta were the only pastas she had access to growing up in Egypt because pasta wasn't a huge part of the food culture. Theoretically, you could use any type of pasta to change up the texture a bit, but it doesn't matter because it becomes so gooey that you hardly even realize you're eating pasta anymore!