Moroccan Spiced Lamb Pastitsio

by

Pastitiso

In case you hadn’t noticed, Cari and I have started to get back into the kitchen more and more.  Predictable nap/bed times for Violet have not only given us a lot more uninterrupted free time, we’ve also had a lot more energy for all things food.

That’s not to say our enthusiasm for food ever wavered.  Flipping through the March 2011 issue of Bon Appetit, the baked pasta feature especially caught my eye.  And since the weather has started to cool down and we were having some good friends over for dinner, we decided to take a crack at the Moroccan-Spiced Pastitsio with Lamb and Feta.

So what is pastitsio?  It’s effectively a Greek/Mediterranean version of a meat lasagna, with ground meat, pasta and bechamel sauce.  This particular recipe uses ground lamb, which – as it turns out – is hard to find in Canadian grocery stores.  Thankfully, the butcher at Longo’s was very helpful and provided me with a nice piece of boneless lamb that Cari and I ground with our Kitchen-Aid mixer’s meatgrinder attachment.

The other unusual ingredient is a Moroccan spice blend called ras-el-hanout.  Rather than seek it out, I decided to make it myself after learning that ras-el-hanout is made from a whole bunch of spices already located in our pantry.

Apart from that, the dish was somewhat time consuming but relatively easy to assemble and bake.  And considering the amount of awesome flavours loaded in to the dish, it was a big hit at our dinner and made for some delicious leftovers the next day.

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Pastitsio (courtesy of Bon Appetit)

Makes 10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped red onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 tablespoons dried mint
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ras-el-hanout (see below for recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups whole milk, divided
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 6 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Directions:

1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until onion softens, about 5 minutes.

2. Add lamb; cook until brown, breaking into small pieces, about 8 minutes.

3. Stir in tomatoes with juice, mint, ras-el-hanout, tomato paste, 2 1/2 teaspoons cumin, and cinnamon. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until lamb mixture is thick, stirring often, 15 to 18 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups milk to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat; cover to keep warm.

5. Melt 6 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; whisk until smooth. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until roux is pale golden, whisking often, 3 to 4 minutes.

6. Gradually add warm milk to roux, whisking until sauce is smooth. Whisk 1 cup milk and 3 egg yolks in medium bowl; whisk into sauce. Whisk in feta and 1/2 teaspoon cumin. Bring sauce to boil, whisking often.

7. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until slightly thickened, mashing with potato masher to break up cheese, about 5 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

8. Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter deep 14-cup baking dish. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta; return to same pot. Mix 2 tablespoons butter into pasta. Add egg whites and 1/4 cup Parmesan; stir to blend.

9. Spread 4 cups pasta in dish. Spread lamb mixture over. Top with remaining pasta. Spoon sauce over; sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Place dish on rimmed baking sheet.

10. Bake pastitsio until heated through, about 40 minutes. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

Ras-El-Hanout (courtesy of Epicurious commenter AliceAC)

Mix the following (you’ll get much more than you need, so save the rest for later):

  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
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