Vegan Iranian Spaghetti Bolognese | Macaroni with tahdig | ماکارونی

Yields: 5 Servings Difficulty: Easy Prep Time: 10 Mins Cook Time: 40 Mins Total Time: 50 Mins

This is no ordinary spaghetti bolognese. The pasta and sauce layers have a smokey flavour and are topped with crispy tahdig (fried potatoes or tortilla bread). So if you find yourself with spare time one evening, replace your simple pasta dish with this exotic twist.

The first way that Iranian Macaroni is different from Italian pasta is the tahdig – ته دیگ. This is a classic feature in Iranian cooking and is usually the most popular part of the dish. Tahdig is the golden-brown crust cooked in oil at the base of the pan, whether it be rice, potatoes, bread or pasta… To serve, flip the dish upside down revealing the crowning tahdig. On social media, you will find videos of chefs flipping deep pots of food to reveal carefully layered middle-eastern dishes.

Another difference between Italian spaghetti bolognese and Iranian is the spices. This dish produces a deep, smokey flavour with paprika, turmeric, black pepper and onion.

Ingredient swaps

My favourite vegan protein for this recipe is the mince you can find in most supermarkets’ refrigerated section. This mince has a soft texture that blends in well with many dishes. Example brands include Meatless Farm, Beyond Meat, and Future Mince.

Alternatively, you can use frozen vegan mince, textured soya protein or even mushrooms. Anything with a meaty/chewy texture and an umami flavour works well in this recipe. You may want to add more spices if you swap the vegan mince with soya chunks that don’t contain as much flavour.

Try adding garlic for an extra burst of flavour or walnuts for a chunky texture.

For the tahdig, I have used a tortilla wrap. This is my favourite type of tahdig because I find the cooking time is more consistent than potatoes (which vary in thickness) and it usually comes out in one piece when you turn the pan upside-down to serve. However, feel free to use potatoes or just plain spaghetti, especially if you are experienced with cooking tahdig. Find out how to make potato tahdig here (replace the rice with spaghetti and sauce).

Potato tahdig on spaghetti
Potato tahdig

Cooking tips

  • oil should be hot before you begin frying
  • take time to fry on a low heat for intense, caramelised flavour
  • when steaming the pasta, don’t remove the lid to take a peek because the steam will escape

How to serve Iranian Spaghetti Bolognese

Macaroni looks best when flipped upside-down displaying the golden tahdig. You can also serve it directly onto individual plates by serving the pasta and sauce combination and then placing pieces of tahdig on top.

I recommend serving with a salad because this dish is carb-heavy! Use fresh lemon juice or pomegranate molasses to add a tang to your salad – balancing out the smokey pasta flavours.

If you like this recipe, you might want to try:

Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi Giahi – herb rice with vegan tofu fish – سبزی پلو با ماهی گیاهی

Lubia Polo – لوبیا پلو – green beans, mince and rice

Persian mixed rice – Polo – برنج مخلوط

Smoked aubergine dip – Mirza Ghasemi – میرزا قاسمی


0/14 Ingredients
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  • Equipment


0/6 Instructions
  • Heat 4 tbsp of oil in a frying pan and add the diced potato. Fry on medium heat. Do not stir - this will break up the potato. Instead, let the cubes cook on one side, once brown on that side they will stop sticking and you can turn them over to fry on the other sides. Once nicely browned on all sides, place on a paper towel on a plate. Keep the oil in the pan for the next step.
  • In the same pan, fry the diced onion. You can add more oil if needed. Again, begin with hot oil and then cook on low-medium heat.
  • Meanwhile, boil the spaghetti in lightly salted water until al dente. It should not be too soft because you will steam it later. When ready, drain and leave aside in a colander.
  • Once the onions are soft and starting to brown, add the mince. Continue to fry for a few minutes. Push the ingredients to the side of the pan and add the tomato puree on the other side. Mix the tomato puree into the oil, frying it, deepening the flavour for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes back into the frying pan and gently toss all of the sauce ingredients together. Turn off the heat.
  • In a deep pan (you can reuse the pasta pan), heat the remaining oil (it needs to cover the base). Ensure the tortilla is trimmed to fit the base of the pan and carefully lay it down in the pan. Turn the heat to low. On top of the tortilla, place a layer of spaghetti, then a layer of sauce. Layer them up with about four layers of spaghetti with three layers of sauce in between. Make into a mountain shape by gently pulling away from the sides of the pan. This prevents burning. If your pasta and sauce are very dry, you can sprinkle a little water on top. Place a lid wrapped in a tea towel on top of the pan to keep the steam in. Cooked for about 20 minutes. (The timing depends on the pan so if you have a thin base or if you smell it starting to burn turn it off early.)
  • Serve on a large plate. Carefully, place the plate on top of the pan and tip upside down. Lift the pan off and hopefully, you should have a steaming plate of spaghetti bolognese topped with a crispy tortilla (tahdig). If your tortilla has stuck to the pan - no worries - just take it off in pieces using a knife and place the pieces onto the spaghetti. Enjoy!


Did you make this recipe? Tag @vegan_middle_east on Instagram or comment below.

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