By • January 20, 2010 50 Comments

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Author Notes: An unusual take on a baked pasta casserole, sort of a Greek baked ziti. This can be made in one big family style casserole, or two smaller sizes. Take one to a friend and have one for dinner. - TheRunawaySpoonTheRunawaySpoon

Food52 Review: We recently made a quadruple batch of this recipe (last year's Baked Pasta runner-up) for a dinner party and were reminded just how much we love it. We promptly decided it deserved a spot in the second food52 cookbook. Here are our original notes: This is shepherd's pie meets moussaka -- a lamb ragout spiced with cinnamon, oregano, sumac and mint is blended with penne and feta and then topped with a cayenne-scented bechamel. After baking in the oven -- we turned up the heat to 450 degrees for the final 10 minutes -- it emerges crisp on the perimeter with a thick toasted bechamel cap. A few tips: remember to salt the pasta water and you should undercook the pasta because it will continue cooking in the later baking stage. And when you add the tomato paste to the lamb, let it toast a bit before adding the water. - A&MThe Editors

Serves 8

For the pasta and meat

  • 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 ounces can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground 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 grated parmesan cheese
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and reserve. Stir in the butter to prevent sticking.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. 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. 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.

More Great Recipes: Lamb|Pasta|Entrees|Tomatoes

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Comments (50) Questions (5)


12 months ago Kevin French

Made last night, and despite not being able to find sumac anywhere in my city, it turned out very well. A huge hit with the family as the dish is such a comfort food. Will order sumac online for the next time I make this, as I am intrigued to see the influence it has in this dish.


about 1 year ago Ellie

Made this today as a surprise to my boyfriend. SO GOOD! I remember as a child eating Pastitsio that my yiayia made and so happy I finally made it!! Delicious! The only thing I would suggest: Make sure to undercook your noodles as they will continue cooking in the oven. Other then that tiny adjustment, totally recommend!


about 1 year ago Ellie

Oops I forgot to add: I used ground meat instead of lamb


almost 2 years ago dymnyno

Not unusual, actually. I had a very similar dish at a restaurant on the island of Kefalounia about 4 years ago, where the cuisine has a distinct Italian influence, as does much of Greece.I make this often and I love that it is one of those "even better the next day" kind of recipes.


almost 2 years ago margae

Absolutely delicious. Almost like Mousaka but without the eggplant obviously. I've been looking for ways to use my sumac so this was a great and we LOVE lamb. The cheese sauce/bechmel was perfect.


about 2 years ago pow

yum! lamb! can't wait to try it!


about 2 years ago za'atar

I made this because I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand, and I'm glad I did. This was a nice change of pace from the typical lasagna and comes together quick enough for a weeknight meal. I added some extra eggplant and tomatoes that I had lying around. Yummy!


over 2 years ago mle18

Nom, Nom, Nom! The next time I want to make this on a weeknight, I will make the meat sauce a day ahead. But relatively easy for such a tasty and flavorful dish!


over 2 years ago Patricia Landers Gee

Really delicious dish. I halved the recipe as there are just 3 of us and it was fine. New Seasons was out of ground sumac so I googled it and found it is a "tangy, tart and lemony" flavor. I substituted 1/4 tsp of lemon zest - maybe not enough to make a difference, but it smelled great going into the pan. Great dish and will recommend to friends.


about 3 years ago Phoov

I just made this, last night. Put it into a large casserole that I froze, and small one that we ate. Used half ground lamb half ground steak...lamb @ $11.99/lb was a little steep. Trying to save a wee bit. Turned out great, though! And I used fresh oregano and fresh mint as I have an extensive herb garden and go fresh while the getting is good in summertime. Could not find sumac. Even tried to buy it at Earth Fare. Good solid recipe that obviously lends itself to adjustments well.


over 3 years ago Spencer

I made this earlier this week. It was kind of a production but WELL worth it. Served it to a bunch of friends and they all loved it. Its a good sign when there are very few leftovers.


almost 4 years ago Shalini

I made another version of this for the first time a few weeks ago, from the Martha Stewart Living New Classics cookbook. It was fantastic, but this version looks even better because of the Sumac and dried mint. I'll be trying this version next!


almost 4 years ago Shalini

I made another version of this for the first time a few weeks ago, from the Martha Stewart Living New Classics cookbook. It was fantastic, but this version looks even better because of the Sumac and dried mint. I'll be trying this version next!


almost 4 years ago Shalini

I made another version of this for the first time a few weeks ago, from the Martha Stewart Living New Classics cookbook. It was fantastic, but this version looks even better because of the Sumac and dried mint. I'll be trying this version next!


over 4 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Made this last night using beef instead of lamb, and fresh mint, not dried. Outstanding! And so easy, too. ;o)


over 4 years ago Pat in SoCal

I think this will be a wonderful way to use some lamb leftover from Easter...a small dice ought to work as well as ground lamb, eh?


over 4 years ago healthierkitchen

I made this last month for a large party (double recipe) and it was fantastic. It's funny that flawlessmom thought it tastes a little Moroccan - I actually added a couple of pinches of raz al hanout to the spice mix! The instructions were easy to follow and the end product both looked and tasted delicious. Added bonus was how delicious leftovers were.


over 4 years ago FlawlessMom

THIS WAS SO GOOD! The flavors taste more Moroccan than Greek to me. It was even better the second day. I was so happy for leftovers!! Thank you for this recipe and for the suggestion of turning up the heat for the last 10 to 15 minutes. It looked exactly like the picture!


over 4 years ago KOKelley

This was dinner tonight and was fantastic! I've never cooked with Sumac but now I have a little baggie of it in my pantry to inspire me to find more recipes that call for it! The spices were subtle but delicious - my "I hate veggies" husband loved it (I made sure to throw in the onions while he was absent and they went undetected). I will absolutely make this again! Thanks, RunawaySpoon!


over 4 years ago melissav

This was fantastic. I made everything but the cheese sauce on Sunday, popped it in the fridge, and when I came home from work on Monday, I whipped up the sauce and popped it in the oven. Made for a delicious and easy Monday night dinner (and lunch today)!


over 4 years ago Sarasita

Great dish. My husband loves baked ziti, and when I made this he went crazy for the new twist of Greek flavors (compared to the traditional Italian). He said I could "make it for him any time." :)