This is an extra post this week, because to be honest, I am quite pleased with myself. My recipe for Pastitsio is a finalist in the wonderful website Food52 contest for Best Baked Pasta dish. When I saw the contest theme, I immediately remembered how much I enjoy this dish. This Greek lamb casserole is as comforting and homey as any cheesy, meaty baked pasta, but with a unique twist of lamb, red wine, herbs and salty feta. Served with a Greek salad and some crusty bread, this is a meal out of the ordinary with a familiar feel.
Food52 is an amazing site to read and search for recipes. They are holding weekly recipe contests with different themes and will publish a cookbook at the end of the project. I know you’ll enjoy the site, maybe you’ll submit your own recipe. And while your there, consider voting for The Runaway Spoon’s Pastitsio.
Greek-Style Lamb Casserole
This can be made in one big family style casserole, or two smaller sizes. Take one to a friend and have one for dinner.
1 pound dried penne or ziti pasta
1 Tablespoon butter
2 pounds ground lamb
2 medium onions, diced
1/2 cup red wine
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sumac (optional)
1 teaspoon dried mint (optional)
2 cups water
6 ounces crumbled feta
For the cheese sauce:
6 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and reserve. Stir in the butter to prevent sticking.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the lamb until no longer pink, breaking it into pieces, about 8 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Transfer to a colander and shake well to drain the fat. Return the lamb to the pan, add the wine and cook over medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the tomato paste, cinnamon, oregano, (sumac and mint if using) and 2 cups of water. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
For the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until incorporated, about 30 seconds. In a slow steady stream, whisk in the milk until there are no lumps. Cook, whisking often, until the mixture is thick and bubbly and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 – 7 minutes. Stir in the cayenne and the Parmesan.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Add the pasta to the lamb mixture and stir to combine. Toss in the feta and combine. Spoon the mixture into a greased 9 x13 inch baking dish, or two 8 by 8 inch pans. Spread the cheese sauce over the pasta mixture, smoothing the top with a spoon. Bake until browned in spots, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven then allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
This will keep assembled up to one day in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap. To freeze, cool completely and wrap tightly in foil. Thaw completely and reheat.