Header image: CHOW
Thanks to some good PR and a questionable story involving Marco Polo, the world knows Italy as the home of pasta. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that pasta’s origins are debated and that its presence stretches across the wider Mediterranean. In Greece, the pasta culture is just as vibrant as that of its neighbor across the Ionian, rivaling it in regional diversity and in the variety of shapes and dishes that can be found.
While you could traipse across Greece’s mountains and islands taking in its countless recipes for kritharaki, makaronia, and more, we’ve boiled this list down to nine essential Greek pasta dishes to know and make at home.
1. Greek Lamb Braised with Tomatoes (Kokkinisto)
With hunks of lamb and a thick, tomato-y sauce, this stew coats everything it touches with a meaty, unctuous gloss. Here, it’s served with makaronia, tubular pasta strands, which pocket those juices inside their hollow centers. Get our Greek Lamb Braised with Tomatoes (Kokkinisto) recipe.
2. Pumpkin, Feta and Pea Pastitsio
With stacks of tubed pasta buried under a layer of bechamel, pastitsio is kind of like the ingenious love child of lasagna and a honeycomb. Although it’s often filled with ground meat, this vegetarian version featuring pumpkin is no less hearty and satisfying. Get the recipe here.
3. Greek Braised Rabbit With Hilopites Pasta
Hilopites is a yolky and rich egg pasta that stands up beautifully against heavy sauces. This recipe pairs it up with gamey rabbit braised in a heady concoction of tomato, prunes, and herbs. Get the recipe here.
4. Baked Lamb and Orzo Noodles
This recipe is based on giouvetsi, a dish of kritharaki (orzo) baked in the juices of its accompanying ingredients. Although you can find versions based around different meats, seafood, or vegetables, this one soaks in the full flavors of lamb. Get the recipe here.
5. Spaghetti with Mizithra and Brown Butter
This simple dish of pasta dressed with browned butter and salty mizithra can be found all over Greece. Although it typically is prepared with egg noodles, pretty much any pasta will do in a pinch. Get the recipe here.
6. Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions
Certain areas of Greece are known for pastas coated in soft cheeses or thick yogurt, which provide a lighter variation upon heavier cream-based sauces. This recipe pits the tang of yogurt up against caramelized onions’ sweetness and the sharp tones of kefalotyri cheese. Get the recipe here.
7. Avgolemono Soup
The Greeks have their own riff on comforting chicken noodle soup in the form of avgolemono, which often incorporates orzo or other small pasta. The broth itself is creamy and thick, whisked with eggs and cut with a squeeze of lemon. Get the recipe here.
8. Greek Stewed Octopus in Tomato Sauce
Pasta also is a prominent part of Greece’s lenten dishes, which eschew meat and dairy. This braised octopus in a tomato and wine sauce with pasta is so delectably tender and savory that it’s worth enjoying year round. Get the recipe here.
9. Greek Pasta with Shrimp, Feta, Tomatoes, and Olives
Although more Greek-American than Greek, this recipe features some of the ingredients that make the country’s cuisine great: meaty kalamata olives, briny feta cheese, and even a dash of anise-scented ouzo. Get our Greek Pasta with Shrimp, Feta, Tomatoes, and Olives recipe.
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.