Traditional Greek recipe of rooster with pasta and rich tomato sauce or Kokora me makaronia
Μακαρονάδα με κόκορα κοκκινιστό. If you want to talk traditional Greek recipes, this is definitely one for discussion. Rooster with pasta and tomato sauce (or Kokora me makaronia as it is called in Greek) is humble, real Greek food. It is also the meal we have always traditionally had on New Year’s Day.
New Year’s Day was always a special day in our family. The start of the new year is also the day of Saint Basil. Those named Vasiliki and Vasili celebrate their nameday on January 1st. If you are Greek, you may have guessed that Billie (of Helen & Billie 🙂 ) was baptized Vasiliki. Billie is a nickname given to her by a cousin when she was a baby – and it stuck. What better way to celebrate that with an easy and traditional Greek recipe of rooster with pasta and tomato sauce (or kokora me makaronia).
Our first cousin (daughter of Thea Voula of pizza and cheesecake fame) is also a Vasiliki. For many years New Year’s Day was often spent at Thea Voula’s house. We would all gather for lunch, many of us having spent New Year’s Eve together, some of the older cousins having gone out to parties with friends. No matter how we spent the 31st of December, being together on January 1st was non-negotiable. And why would we want it to be? We could think of no better way to start the New Year than to be with family, playing games, talking, watching movies and eating way too much.
Unlike Easter, which tended to be a more energetic affair, New Year’s Day celebrations were more low-key. Most of us would be tired, either from going to bed very late (or early depending on how you look at things) or from the activities taking place since Christmas Eve. That period of time between December 24th and January 1st is the weirdest isn’t it? Time seems to stand still and yet also pass too quickly. Days roll into one another and it is just a series of eating, gathering, sleeping and repeat. We love it!
The most tired of course would be dear Thea Voula – she would prepare the most amazing lunch (obviously because we were all starving). There would be her pizza, but she would also serve things like spanakopita, tyropites, the famous Greek lettuce salad called maroulosalata, roast meat with potatoes (sometimes lamb, sometimes pork, sometimes both) and many more delicious and classic Greek dishes.
As the years have gone on and families have grown, we started to celebrate New Year’s Day in a different manner. These days we gather at our parents’ home, with our own children. Although the spread is usually as impressive as it used to be at Thea Voula’s the centrepiece is this meal – rooster with pasta and tomato sauce (or kokora me makaronia as it is referred to in Greek). This was a meal that our mom and dad would have on special occasions (like New Year’s Day) in their villages, and they love making it for their family now.
The great thing about a meal like rooster with pasta and tomato sauce (kokora me makaronia) is that is it pretty easy to put together. It is hearty, but incredibly simple – a very uncomplicated way to feed a crowd. You can easily double this recipe if you need to.
What is rooster? What is the difference between rooster and chicken?
First, yes – of course you can eat rooster. Would we share a recipe with non-edible ingredients?! You may actually remember that we have already shared a rooster recipe with you all Stewed rooster with okra and potatoes (Κόκορας κοκκινιστό με μπάμιες και πατάτες).
The difference between a rooster and a chicken is simple – there isn’t really one. A rooster is a male chicken. What we typically refer to as chicken (the kind you easily find in any grocery store and use to make this classic Greek meal: Roast chicken and Greek-style potatoes (Κοτόπουλο λεμονάτο με πατάτες)) is actually a hen. So, roosters and hens are both chickens: the rooster is the male, and the hen is the female. So, when you are eating chicken, you are technically eating hen. There are more details to this that you can learn about here.
Where can I purchase rooster?
Roosters are not as readily available as chickens are. You may need to find a butcher who carries rooster, or you can try an Asian market as they tend to cook with rooster as well. In Montreal, we buy our rooster from the place our parents introduced us too – Boucherie Zinman in Little Italy, adjacent to Jean Talon market.
When you purchase your rooster, ask the butcher to cut it up for you into serving size pieces. This makes preparing rooster with pasta and tomato sauce (kokora me makaronia) so much easier! Also, make sure that your rooster was not previously frozen. You will only use half of the rooster for this recipe. You can freeze the other half (but not if it was previously frozen and thawed).
What does rooster taste like?
Rooster is actually delicious. It tastes gamier than chicken does, and it tends to be much leaner. Some say that it tastes more like turkey than it does chicken. The flavour becomes more pronounced as the rooster ages.
How to cook rooster with pasta and tomato sauce (Kokora me makaronia)
You will notice that in the recipe we suggest first browning the rooster on all sides. This will help keep the meat tender and will add flavour to the final meal. The rooster then cooks for a long time in the pot – approximately an hour. This is normal, and will not dry out your rooster. It cooks over low heat. Rooster takes a longer time to cook than chicken does.
What sides can I serve with rooster with pasta and tomato sauce (Kokora me makaronia)?
Other recipes you might like to serve with your rooster with pasta and tomato sauce (Kokora me makaronia):
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Rooster with pasta and tomato sauce (Kokora me makaronia)
- 1 large pot
- 1 Fine sieve
- 1 Large colander
- 2½ - 3 lbs rooster (see notes) cut into 6 or 7 serving pieces
- 1 tbsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- olive oil to fry the rooster pieces enough to cover 1/4 inch of pan.
- 1 cup boiling water
- 3 ½ cups tomato sauce
- 1 tsp cinnamon heaping teaspoon
- 500 grams pasta of your choice we like to use bucatini for this recipe.
- ½ cup grated mizithra cheese or grated parmesan and/or romano cheese
- Season your rooster with salt and pepper.2½ - 3 lbs rooster (see notes), 1 tbsp salt, ½ tsp black pepper
- Add olive oil to a large frying pan (enough so that you have ¼ inch of oil in pan) Heat over medium heat and add the rooster. Do not overcrowd your pan; you will likely have to do this in batches. Fry the rooster until browned on all sides (about 5 minutes per side). Transfer the rooster to a large pot.olive oil to fry the rooster pieces
- Once all of your rooster has been browned, strain the olive oil that is left in the pan through a fine sieve to remove all the sediments. Measure the amount of oil you have and add enough to end up with 1/3 cup olive oil.
- Add the olive oil to the pot containing the rooster. Add the tomato sauce, the boiling water and the ground cinnamon.1 cup boiling water, 3 ½ cups tomato sauce, 1 tsp cinnamon
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, shaking the pot every 5 - 7 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, uncover the pot and continue to cook for another 30 minutes (60 minutes total) or until the rooster is cooked and the sauce has thickened.
- If you notice that your sauce is getting too thick before the meal is done, add some additional water, ½ cup at a time.
- When your rooster is almost ready, boil the water for the pasta. Cook as directed on package.500 grams pasta of your choice
- Drain the pasta and toss with the grated cheese. To serve, portion out the pasta and top with 1 or 2 pieces of rooster and the sauce.½ cup grated mizithra cheese