The classic stuffed Moroccan pastry called pastilla (also spelled b’stilla and variations in
between) is filled with a rich mixture of pigeon or chicken, almonds, eggs, and cinnamon.
A seafood version, with fish, shrimp, and calamari, as well as, perhaps surprisingly, thin
Asian rice noodles, is modern, festive, and very popular. I have heard from a few people
that it dates only from the 1990s, but by its integration into the Moroccan kitchen, that’s
hard to imagine.
Generally cooked in a skillet until golden and with slightly crispy edges, the pastilla can
also be brushed with oil and baked in the oven; both methods are given below.
MAKES ONE 8 -IN/20-CM PASTILLA; SERVES 6 T O 8
1 lb/455 g firm white-fleshed fish fillets
such as cod, bream, or monkfish
3 oz/85 g thin Asian rice stick noodles
4 Tbsp/60 ml olive oil, plus more for
brushing pastry sheets
1 lb/455 g cleaned calamari, chopped
1 lb/455 g peeled uncooked shrimp
2 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 red bell pepper, seeded, deribbed,
and finely chopped
1⁄2 green bell pepper, seeded, deribbed,
and finely chopped
1 tsp grated lemon zest, or 1⁄2 preserved
lemon (see page 45), flesh scraped out
and discarded, peel finely chopped
Heaped 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf
Heaped 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
1⁄2 tsp sweet paprika
1⁄2 tsp ground cumin
1 pinch saffron threads, dry-toasted and
ground (see page 50)
Freshly ground black pepper
8 sheets phyllo dough or warqa (see page 46),
plus more in case of breakage
1 egg yolk, whisked
2 lemons, cut into wedges
In a large saucepan, bring at least 8 cups/2 L
water to a boil and add a generous 2 pinches of
salt. Reduce the heat to low, gently set the fish in
the water, and poach until opaque throughout,
about 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of
the fillet. Carefully transfer with a slotted spoon
to a platter to drain and cool.
In the same water, add the noodles and boil
until tender but not mushy, about 3 minutes.
Drain in a colander and rinse with hot water.
Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Cut with scissors
into shorter lengths.
Flake the fish, discarding the skin and any
bones. Transfer to the bowl with the noodles.
In a large skillet or sauté pan, heat 2 Tbsp
of the olive oil over high heat. Add the calamari
and cook until it has released its moisture and
is golden and tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the
shrimp and cook until it has released its moisture,
5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to the mixing bowl.
Add the remaining 2 Tbsp oil to the skillet and
reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic and
cook until fragrant and golden, about 1 minute.
Add the red and green bell peppers, and cook
until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon zest,
parsley, cilantro, paprika, cumin, and saffron and
season with salt and pepper. Return the seafood
mixture to the pan and turn to blend. Return to
the mixing bowl. Taste for seasoning and adjust
Lay a sheet of the phyllo over a standard
9-in/23-cm pie or cake pan or round baking dish.
Lightly brush with olive oil and lay another phyllo
sheet on top of the first, somewhat overlapping.
Lightly brush with oil and repeat with two more
sheets so that there are four total, with each
one somewhat overlapping the other. Spoon the
seafood mixture evenly over the center.
Fold the corners of the phyllo over the top.
Top with one phyllo sheet, brush with oil, and lay
another sheet on top, somewhat overlapping.
Brush with oil and repeat with the remaining two
sheets. Invert the pastilla onto a plate. Brush the
edges of the phyllo with the egg yolk and fold
over, working in a clockwise manner to bring up
the bottom sheets and enclose the pastilla.
To cook the pastilla in a skillet, lightly brush
the pastilla with olive oil, place in an 8- or 9-in/
20- or 23-cm skillet over medium-low heat and
gently cook until the edges are golden and slightly
crispy, about 10 minutes. Turn halfway through
cooking by pressing an upturned plate over the
skillet, carefully turning both the plate and skillet,
and then sliding the pastilla back into the pan.
To bake the pastilla in the oven, preheat the
oven to 300˚F/150˚C/gas mark 2. Line a baking
sheet with parchment paper. Lightly brush the
pastilla with oil, lay on the sheet, and bake until
golden and the edges are slightly crispy, about
40 minutes. Turn about halfway through cooking.
Transfer to a serving plate, cut into wedges
and serve hot with the lemons on the side.