Serves a Crowd


January 20, 2010
11 Ratings
Photo by Sarah Shatz
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Serves 8
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. - TheRunawaySpoon —TheRunawaySpoon

Test Kitchen Notes

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&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 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
  • 16 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.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Linguist
  • andrea perlman
    andrea perlman
  • Kevin French
    Kevin French
  • dymnyno
  • pow
I think I am like most people. Somewhere in the middle between food snob and food schlub. Just being in the kitchen makes me happy.

61 Reviews

bonnie R. December 27, 2020
i can't believe you still haven't fixed the typo'd amount of tomato paste. i have to wonder how many folks have ruined this dish because of that!
Peanut May 5, 2019
I made this using half ground beef and half ground pork, used lemon zest instead of sumac, and had but forgot to add fresh mint. I’m sure mint would have been a nice addition, but the recipe worked well without it. I found I needed more oregano than the recipe calls for. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to the comment about the probable typo in the recipe regarding the amount of tomato paste to add (can that be fixed??), so I used two 6-oz. cans when probably one would have sufficed. I found the bechamel, with its 6T of butter, really heavy and rich, and I might try to reduce the butter next time. This was a hearty and flavorful dish, and I’ll make it again!
Linguist September 30, 2018
The recipe here calls for "16 ounces can tomato paste". This seemed pretty over the top ... and when I looked for the recipe on other sites, I found it actually called for "one 6 ounce can tomato paste", which makes sense.
Iris D. October 1, 2018
Greek-American here! 6 ounce can of tomato paste...Add slowly. And taste. As my mother would say, "You can add more but you can't subtract!" I add about a 1/2 cup of red wine to the meat mixture.
Darian August 24, 2018
I made this last night with only one change - I used 1 pound of ground lamb instead of 2. It was absolutely delicious and a big hit with the whole family! Fed 4 generously with enough leftovers for 2, so total of 6 full portions.
drose May 4, 2017
So I've made and combined all the ingredients and put it into a Pyrex dish intending to bake it but it's way too much for a couple of people and I was thinking about freezing some of it. Should I freeze the uncooked portion or should I cook the whole thing and then freeze the leftovers?
Renee B. May 5, 2017
I freeze the leftovers every time I make it. It is a BIG batch.
Iris D. October 1, 2018
I cook the whole thing then freeze individual portions. Wrap well in Saran Wrap, then wrap in foil and place in a ziplock bag. This dish is best served after a month or so. Longer freezing times are not advised.
Renee B. February 16, 2016
Absolutely delicious! I didn't have any sumac so googled for a substitute and learned that lemon zest is often used. For any recipe that calls for fresh lemon juice I always zest it first and freeze the zest. It worked beautifully in this delicious recipe. A teaspoon of zest added just the right amount of sour. I didn't use mint. I added just a tad more cayenne to the cheese sauce. This will be in our regular rotation.
andrea P. January 11, 2016
Made two of them for a dinner party. Everyone loved it. Very hearty and satisfying on a cold winter night. I used beef and cinnamon plus fresh mint and oregano. It was quite good.
Kevin F. August 31, 2014
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.
Ellie July 7, 2014
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!
Ellie July 7, 2014
Oops I forgot to add: I used ground meat instead of lamb
dymnyno September 11, 2013
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.
margae September 11, 2013
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.
pow August 13, 2013
yum! lamb! can't wait to try it!
za'atar June 9, 2013
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!
mle18 February 14, 2013
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!
Patricia L. December 31, 2012
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.
Phoov July 11, 2012
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.
Spencer March 30, 2012
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.
Shalini October 17, 2011
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!
Shalini October 17, 2011
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!
Shalini October 17, 2011
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!