The dish every Libyan grew up eating

Mbakbaka is a classic one-pot dish that most Libyans have grown up eating. It is the perfect meal when you want something hearty and tasty but don’t have much time. Additionally, it is a dish that can be made with limited fresh produce or unexpected guests arrive.

This Libyan dish is the equivalent of the ultimate one-pot pasta wonder. The pasta is cooked in a rich tomato broth with vegetables, seasoned with warm spices, and topped with fresh basil. It’s a dish that everyone should try making!

Libyan dish of Italian influence

Interestingly, Mbakbaka is very similar to the Italian dish Minestrone. Libya was colonized by the Italians between 1910 and 1947, so it’s no surprise that Libyan cuisine carries a lot of Italian influence. Although the traditional recipe calls for chicken or meat, you can also make it with just vegetables such as frozen peas, carrots, chickpeas, and beans.

Mbakbaka is simple and delicious, even considering the complicated spice mix! A slow cooked in one pot makes it easy yet super tasty. There isn’t a uniform way of cooking the  Mbakbaka, so the dish calls for a lot of improvisation both in ingredients and spices.

Recipe for a tasty Mbakbaka

Here is a tested recipe that is makes a tasty Mbakbaka.


  • 1 pound of pasta (penne or elbow macaroni)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can of tomato puree (14 oz)
  • 3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 cup of chopped carrots
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Fresh basil for garnish


  1. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté until they turn translucent.
  2. Add the minced garlic and sauté for another minute.
  3. Add the paprika, cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper to the pot and stir to combine.
  4. Add the tomato puree to the pot and stir well.
  5. Add the chicken or vegetable broth to the pot and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  6. Once the mixture comes to a boil, add the frozen peas, chopped carrots, and chickpeas to the pot and stir well.
  7. Add the pasta to the pot and stir well to ensure the pasta is submerged in the sauce.
  8. Reduce the heat to low and let the pasta cook for 10-15 minutes or until it is cooked to your desired level of tenderness. Be sure to stir the pasta occasionally to ensure it does not stick to the bottom of the pot.
  9. Once the pasta is cooked, remove the pot from the heat.
  10. Serve the Mbakbaka hot, garnished with fresh basil. Enjoy!