Ross il-forn is a traditional Maltese baked rice dish. The rice bake is made with a rich meat sauce finished with a crispy cheesy top.
Like the Imqarrun, this baked rice dish is a staple in every Maltese household. It is also commonly found at any local pastizzeria baked in a small foil pan ready to be enjoyed on the go. This dish is a perfect filling lunch, or dish, that can be enjoyed warm or also cold. Traditionally, long grain rice is used which is parboiled before baking. However, basmati rice is also commonly used. The base of the recipe is the typical Maltese meat sauce that is present in so many dishes.
Every family has their own unique version on how to make this dish. Therefore, there is no right or wrong. In my family we make ross il-forn with canned or frozen peas and occasionally we might also include hard boiled eggs. You can find versions who keep it simpler and others that add more vegetables in the mix. Recently, I have also seen baked rice stuffed with a good amount of melty cheese such as mozzarella and cheddar. One thing is common for all these varieties: they are all delicious and it is a comfort meal to enjoy whenever you want something filling. The recipe I’m sharing here is the one I grew up with, and to which I was always looking forward to eat whenever my mother used to make it.
Cooking the Rice
Whenever my mother, and now myself, make this baked rice, we always parboil the rice before. I don’t recommend cooking the rice completely before baking as this might result in a whole mush. Some people choose not to cook the rice beforehand, and just make the sauce runnier so that the rice has more liquid to absorb. I personally, have never tried this method, so can’t give the proper method for this. However, one thing I know is that this method might take longer to actually cook.
One thing that I do recommend: wash your rice before cooking! Apart from cleaning the rice from any debris and dirt, washing the rice helps to remove any excess starch. This prevents rice from becoming a big mush!
Cheese on Top!
In my opinion one of the best parts of ross il-forn is the cheesy crunchy top. This delicious crunchy part is achieved by sprinkling plenty of freshly grated cheese. I like to use parmesan cheese, grana padano or kefalotiri cheese as they melt nicely in the rice, and they create the crispiest crust.
Ross il-Forn – Maltese Baked Rice
- 500 g rice long grain
- 500 g pork minced meat or mixed
- 400 ml tomato sauce passata
- 1 small white onion diced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tbsp tomato paste Maltese kunserva
- 100 g peas canned or frozen
- 1/2 tsp curry
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper extra for the top part
- 2 eggs raw or boiled*
- 125 ml milk
- 50 g parmesan cheese or kefalotiri cheese grated
- In a large pan or pot, heat the olive oil and fry the onion for a few minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and let cook for another minute.
- Add the thyme, oregano, rosemary, curry, cumin and paprika and mix well with the onion and garlic. Add the tomato paste and let it cook for about 3 minutes.
- Once the base is ready, add the pork minced meat, let cook for a few minutes until you get a nice brown colour. Season with salt and pepper.
- Lastly, add the tomato passata and the bay leaves. Bring to a light boil.
- Once you bring it to a boil, cover the pot and let it simmer on low heat for about 1 hour, stirring it occasionally so that the meat doesn't get stuck to the bottom.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F.
- Wash the rice in cold water until the water is clear.
- During the last half an hour, bring to a boil a pot filled with water. Once it starts to boil, season with salt. Add the rice and cook on low heat for about 5 minutes. The rice shouldn't be cooked all the way.
- Once the sauce is done, don’t forget to remove the bay leaves and discard.
- Butter a baking dish. I used a glass dish with a volume of 3L. Set aside.
- Mix the rice together with the sauce and peas.
- In a separate small bowl mix together the raw eggs*, milk and half of the grated cheese and add it to the already mixed rice. Mix well.
- Place the mixed rice in the dish and gently press it down to pack it in. Cover the top layer with the remaining grated cheese and sprinkle extra black pepper on top.
- Bake the dish on the middle rack of your oven for about 45 minutes. During the last 10 minutes I like to place the dish on a higher rack so it gets crispier. However, this last step is optional.
- Once ready, let it rest for a few minutes before slicing through so that the rice bake doesn't break completely.
If you have any questions, feedback or comments on this recipe, please leave a comment below. Please also rate this recipe by double clicking on the stars below. If you did make this recipe, tag @apronandwhisk and hashtag #apronandwhisk, as I’m curious to see what you create!
Don’t forget to subscribe to the mailing list down below so to receive the recipe updates straight to your mailbox!