Yes spring is springing and yes this is All Seasons Cuisine seasonal food blog and yes this photo is more reminiscent of winter comfort fare than said springing season BUT … ah well. This dish was simply too darn good not to post. And I didn’t factor global warming into my menu planning. Who knows, maybe winter will be back for one last blast, in which case you’ll know exactly what to make for dinner!
I have long hand-written lists of recipes I want to try each season. My spring list has been in the works since last month. These lists are constantly being updated and rewritten. (Yes by hand. I’m antiqued. I like it that way, and I prefer keeping my life as gadget-free as possible, at least for now). This recipe didn’t make the cut last winter. Not for any reason other than there are always quite simply too few nights and too many recipes to try each season. After trying it out, I know last winter will be the last winter we don’t enjoy this dish. It’s what I call a seasonal keeper. And for good reason. So if you’re like me (anyone? maybe just 1 other person as food-obsessed as I?), add this to your running list for next winter. Or throw caution to the wind to make it in July! So long as you promise you’ll try it.
Pastitsio is a Greek dish of baked pasta, cinnamon-spiced ground lamb and feta cheese. Like Italian lasagna there are countless variations but those are the fundamentals. This recipe took the dish for a Moroccan stroll, adding cumin and ras-el-hanout into the mix. Ras-el-hanout is a spice blend used across North Africa. You can google the components and mix it up yourself or buy it in the spice aisle of a well-stocked grocery like WholeFoods or Fairway. Or order it online from Penzey’s or any number of purveyors. These spices give the meat mixture such a glowing warmth of flavor, I really don’t know how else to describe it other than that and it tastes really freaking good.
If you want to make the dish slightly lower in fat, you can use skim or low-fat milk in the white sauce instead of whole milk. You could add chopped sauteed swiss chard or kale into the meat mixture for bonus nutritional points. In fact, a lady stopped me in WholeFoods just this morning asking if I had any suggestions on how to use the bunch of kale she just placed in her basket. Well, she asked the wrong person because I probably chewed her ear for at least 20 minutes suggesting all sorts of things! Hopefully she wasn’t in any rush.
Anyhow, I hope you are enjoying the first tastes of spring and yes there will be spring recipes forthcoming. Probably as I’m posting those we’ll be in the midst of a snow blizzard.
moroccan-spiced lamb pastitsio
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 1/3 lb ground lamb
- 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 Tbs fresh mint, minced
- 1 1/2 Tbs ras-el-hanout
- 1 Tbs tomato paste
- 2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 cups whole or low-fat milk
- 5 Tbs butter, divided
- 1/4 cup flour
- 8 oz Greek feta, divided
- 1 lb dried penne (preferably De Cecco brand)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until softened, 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add lamb, reduce heat to medium and cook until browned, breaking up with wooden spoon, about 8 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with juice, mint, ras-el-hanout, tomato paste, cumin, cinnamon and cinnamon stick. Bring to a low boil. Reduce meat and simmer until thickened, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and let cool.
2. Meanwhile, warm milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Do not allow milk to boil. In separate saucepan, melt 4 Tbs butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Reduce heat to medium-low and add milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Whisk in 3oz feta. Simmer over medium-low heat, whisking often, until thickened, 5-8 minutes. Set aside. Season with salt and pepper. Allow sauce to cool.
3. Preheat oven to 400. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water. Add penne and cook 2 minutes. Drain. Add remaining Tbs butter. Toss. Set aside.
4. In large bowl or baking dish, mix pasta with cooled sauce and cooled lamb mixture. Sprinkle with remaining feta. Spoon mixture into baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top evenly. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until pasta is tender and edges are slightly bubbling. Let stand 5-10 minutes. Serve with a green salad and crusty bread.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit