Mbakbaka is about to become your spicy Arabic pasta obsession — this dish is a full-on flavor explosion! It’s not only packed with all the right spices but it also boasts the perfect texture. And the best part? It’s a breeze to whip up! Get ready to fall head over heels for this easy, spicy one-pot pasta!

overhead image of one pot mbakbaka topped with peppers being stirred with a spoon

What is Mbakbaka?

Unless you are very familiar with Egyptian or Libyan cuisine, you may not have heard of Mbakbaka before. But don’t be intimidated by the unfamiliar name! It is absolutely delicious.

Sometimes also called Imbakbaka, Mbakbaka is common in Egyptian and Libyan cultures. It is naturally a one-pot pasta dish (more on the benefits of that later on in this post), and is quite similar to the concept of an Italian Minestrone.

Mbakbaka is essentially a tomato-based noodle recipe that is hearty and flavorful! Our version is vegetarian-friendly if you use veggie broth, but you can easily add chicken or lamb to the recipe to add more protein.

You can also make this a soup by adding more broth, but we personally prefer to serve Mbakbaka as a pasta dish.

one pot mbakbaka (spicy Libyan pasta)

It’s all about the seasoning!

That’s right! Mbakbaka is really all about the seasoning. And despite how complex its name is, the spices for this recipe are super common! You most likely already have them in your spice rack.

First off, we love garlic powder and onion powder. Because we are cooking the pasta in the sauce, it’s much easier to get the garlic and onion flavors from the spice (vs. chopping up onions and garlic). It also makes this recipe much less hands-on!

Next up, we have paprika which is another one of our favorite spices. Originally, paprika was created in Hungary by smoking peppers over an open fire and drying them out to create a spice. Over time, many countries borrowed this method of spice-making to create their own versions of paprika. We personally love smoked paprika the best, but you can get all sorts of paprikas from sweet to spicy!

Lastly, coriander truly makes this recipe what it is. Coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant. It has a warm and earthy flavor profile. It can be found in its whole seed form or ground. We prefer and recommend using ground coriander as it is milder and works really well in spice blends!

What kind of pasta to use for spicy Arabic pasta

There are loads of pastas that work well for this recipe. While we find that this recipe lends itself better to smaller pastas, also called pastinas, you can really use anything!

Here are some of the best pastas to use for this dish:

  • Ditalini pasta, which is commonly used for Minestrone Soup, is a natural fit for this dish! It is actually our go-to. Ditalini pasta is just a bunch of small short tubes of pasta.
  • Gemelli pasta is another great option for this dish. It is a thicker pasta noodle that is similar to Rotini pasta. Both of these twisted noodle pastas would work well to absorb the flavors of Mbakbaka.
  • Macaroni elbows are the noodles traditionally used for this recipe in Egypt and Libya. Similar to the Ditalini pasta, the tube shape of the macaroni helps to absorb the flavors of this dish really well!
  • If you have been making Food Dolls recipes for a while, you know we love Orzo pasta! This pasta is known for its small, oblong shape (you can read more about it in our blog for Shorbet Lesan El Asfour). Orzo cooks quickly and is delish!

Why do you make one pot pasta?

After all this time reading about our One Pot Mbakbaka, you might be wondering what that even means! We are big fans of one-pot recipes here at Food Dolls (you can even check out a list of our favorites here). It makes our pasta recipes more flavorful while also creating less mess!

Typically, you cook pasta in heavily salted water. The reason you need to salt your pasta water is to make sure that the pasta absorbs some flavor. That is because when you cook pasta, it absorbs all the liquid it is cooking in. When you cook noodles directly in the sauce, it has a chance to absorb those flavors making it more tasty!

Instead of using separate pots to cook your pasta and your sauce, it can all come together in one pot. So not only does our method of pasta making create a more flavorful dish overall, but it also means less time in the kitchen AND less mess. Win-win!

How to make one pot Mbakbaka

  1. Heat up the stock and water together in a large pot on the stove over medium heat. Add the garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, coriander, salt, and olive oil to the pot and mix it all together. Follow by stirring in the marinara sauce.
  2. Bring the seasoned liquid up to a boil. Add in the pasta, chiles, and sugar. Give it another quick mix.
  3. Allow the pasta to boil on high for about 15 minutes. You want your pasta to cook to al dente!
  4. Cook pasta until the liquid is absorbed. Serve hot!

one pot mbakbaka topped with peppers with a spoon sticking out

One Pot Mbakbaka (Spicy Libyan Pasta)

5 from 4 votes
Author: Food Dolls
Servings: 8 servings
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 12 minutes
Total: 22 minutes
This one pot pasta is spicy with a lot of warm Middle Eastern spices.

Ingredients  

  • 5 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt unless using regular sodium broth should be 1 tsp
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 Tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 16 ounces Ditalini pasta
  • 3 chili peppers
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar

Instructions 

  • Heat up the stock and water together in a large pot on the stove over medium heat. Add the garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, coriander, salt and olive oil to the pot and mix it all together. Follow by stirring in the tomato sauce.
    5 cups of chicken or vegetable broth, 2 cups water, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, 2 teaspoons salt, 3 Tablespoons olive oil, 4 Tablespoons tomato sauce
  • Bring the seasoned liquid up to a boil. Add in the pasta, chiles, and sugar. Give it another quick mix.
    16 ounces Ditalini pasta, 3 chili peppers, 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • Allow the pasta to boil on high for about 15 minutes. You want your pasta to cook to al dente!
  • Cook pasta until the liquid is absorbed. Serve hot!

Equipment

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 275kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 1212mg | Potassium: 164mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 414IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this recipe?Please leave a comment!

How to store Mbakbaka

Our one pot Mbakbaka is a great recipe for meal planning! It will last in an airtight container for 3-5 days in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer.

What to serve with Mbakbaka

  • We always like to add some balance to the color palette of our meals, and this Zucchini Soup is the most beautiful shade of green! Serve it as your first course on a chilly day for a healthy and hearty dinner.
  • And speaking of balance, we know that pasta on its own can be a heavy dinner. Try making our Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing to serve with the Mbakbaka. You won’t regret it!
  • If you love the flavor of this pasta dish, but are looking for more protein we have the recipe for you! Try serving Mbakbaka alongside our Middle Eastern Chicken and Potatoes. This recipe is just as hands off, and packs a whole bunch of flavor!
  • Dessert is our favorite meal, so no surprise we are going to recommend one of the greatest! To satisfy your sweet tooth after enjoying this delicious pasta, try out our Slow Cooker Chocolate Covered Pretzels.
  • For more Middle Eastern Pasta recipes try this One Pot Greek Couscous!

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Meet Alia & Radwa

Welcome to Food Dolls! We’re so glad you found us. We are Alia and Radwa, sisters who want to share simple and easy recipes with you. We hope you find recipes here that you enjoy making as much as we do! Learn more about us!

5 from 4 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hi,
    I absolutely love ❤️ your recipes.
    For this recipe I omitted the 3 chilli 🌶️ peppers, my stomach won’t allow for that much heat.
    The flavours as always, were delicious. 😋

    1. We’re so glad you were able to adjust it to suit your preferences! Thank you for trying it out and taking the time to leave a review! 😊

      Xo,
      Alia & Radwa

  2. Two questions:
    (1) is it tomato paste or tomato sauce that you’re using?
    (2) would smoked paprika taste better? Or must it be “regular” paprika?

  3. “Originally, paprika was created in Hungary by smoking peppers over an open fire and drying them out to create a spice. ”
    I’m Hungarian, and I don’t believe it. In Hungary, paprika is sun-dried without the use of smoke. Smoked paprika is thought to have originated in Mexico. We didn’t hear about it twenty years ago.

  4. This is a totally Libyan dish and it has nothing to do with the Egyptian cuasin. But I agree it’s getting very popular lately in Egypt, like the Shakshuka. Btw the way you cooked it, it’s the Bedouin way or also called the single man way. Cheers

  5. 5 stars
    Being Egyptian myself, I was totally pulled by this recipe! Made it twice in the last week of Ramadan! Absolutely delicious! 😋