Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ground Lamb Casserole [Pastitsio]

Ingredients for the pasta and meat:
1 pound dried penne or ziti pasta
1 T 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 T dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground sumac (optional)
1 teaspoon dried mint (optional)
2 cups water
6 ounces crumbled feta

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Ingredients for the cheese sauce:
6 T butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 cups milk
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preparing the casserole:
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.

* * * * * * *

Preparing 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 to 7 minutes. Stir in the cayenne and the parmesan.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the pasta to the lamb mixture and stir to combine. Toss in the feta and combine. Spoon the mixture into a greased 9- by 13-inch baking dish. 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.

Serves 8


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