Poppy-seeds noodles (Mákos tészta)

Recipe collections from the 16th century already include this easy-to-whip-up noodle dish blanketed in ground poppy seeds and powdered sugar, which Hungarians used to eat on days of abstinence. Thanks to the trace amounts of opiates, exasperated parents would serve this to soothe their unruly children and help them fall asleep. As with other sweet pasta dishes, it usually rounds out the meal after a generous soup as a first course.

Ingredients

Yield: 4 servings; Total time: 10 minutes

  • 350 grams (¾ pound) dried pasta, ideally a long and thin variety called metélt to which tagliolini or tagliatelle come closest

  • 140 grams (1 ⅓ cups) finely ground poppy seeds

  • 8 tablespoons (½ cup) powdered sugar

  • 5 tablespoons butter

  • Pinch of salt, for the pasta water

Directions

  • Step 1: In a medium pot, bring 2 liters (2.1 quarts) salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente, about 7-8 minutes. Drain pasta, then add to a large pan or pot and toss with butter so that pasta becomes slippery on all sides.

  • Step 2: In the meantime, mix well ground poppy seeds and powdered sugar in a medium bowl.

  • Step 3: Pour the poppy-seeds mixture onto the pasta and combine so that all strands are nicely coated. Spoon individual portions into serving plates and serve while hot.

Words of advice

(i) Poppy seeds easily go rancid so try to use a freshly ground batch. (ii) The key to unlock the magic of this deceptively simple dish is using copious amounts of the poppy-seeds topping.

I created these recipes with the help of nearly a dozen historical Hungarian cookbooks, adjusting ingredients, cooking times, and methods to reflect my own preferences and tastes of the current day. Do you have any feedback? Please let me know!