I hope you enjoy my Greek-style, oven baked pasta dish which was inspired by a magazine recipe. I LOVE foodie magazines. Not all of them are good or ‘worth it’ but honestly you need not ever buy a cookbook again if you buy several magazines a year. Did I just say that? I buy cookbooks anyway. With the internet, I could justify never buying a cooking magazine either. But there’s something about holding a printed publication in my hands with words and pictures and inspiration. Little known fact: I once imagined (as a dream career) that I would work for an inflight magazine. I love most things ‘travel’ as i do food. But I digress!
One key change to my version of this recipe is a deliberate toning-down of the spices. For some of you, cinnamon with meat might be an odd concept but if you’ve never tried it, please keep an open mind! You don’t need to dollop three teaspoons of cinnamon into a kilo of mince which is what was suggested. That’s overkill in my opinion, even for me. All of the spices from my ‘inspiration recipe’ seemed cranked-up to a level that didn’t seem palatable. I think my quantities offer a better balance and allow you to still taste the lamb! You’ll find pasta sauce from a jar in the list of ingredients and all I’ll say is buy your favourite.. or choose one that you’ve always wanted to try. I didn’t add garlic to my pasta bake because my sauces (two different jars), both had garlic in them already. It’s not that I don’t like garlic, but sometimes less is more.
In conclusion, which is the topping, don’t think 200grams of feta is too much because once half a kilo of yoghurt is added + eggs & nutmeg.. what you’re left with is a taste similar to continental cottage cheese. If you’d prefer to cut down on salt anyway, you can substitute the feta with ricotta cheese (and season it to your tastes). There were lots of leftovers in our 3 person household so it’s an economical dish where you cook once, eat twice. Or -even three times!
Lamb Pasta Bake with Yoghurt Topping
Serves 6 generous portions
-1 kg lamb mince
-1 onion finely chopped
-300g dried pasta shapes (of your choice eg. macaroni, farfalle -bow tie-, penne)
-3 cups of pasta sauce (tomato based)
-200gm block of feta cheese (crumbled)
-500g plain yoghurt (Greek style is ok)
-1 cup of red wine
-2 cups liquid chicken stock (powdered stock with warm water is ok)
-2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
-1 level teaspoon cinnamon powder
-1 bay leaf
-1 teaspoon dried oregano
-1/2 teaspoon allspice powder
-Pinch of nutmeg
-Salt & Pepper to taste
-1/3 cup of parmesan cheese for top of pasta bake
-A little rice bran oil to soften/fry onion (or vegetable oil)
-Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius
-Soften onion in a medium-hot pan, add lamb mince & fry until just cooked through. My lamb mince was a little too fatty and a lot of liquid and fat came out of it during the cooking process. I simply put the mince in a large wire strainer and ran very hot water over it to wash off the excess oil. I also wipe out the fry pan with a couple of paper towels (careful not to burn yourself). Bring pan back to heat and add your rinsed mince mixture.. minus excess fat!
-Add allspice powder and stir well, breaking any meat lumps apart with a wooden spoon
-Add red wine, cook a minute or two and then add pasta sauce, bay leaf, cinnamon, oregano and chicken stock (not nutmeg which is for the yoghurt topping)
-At this point you can cook your pasta according to packet directions (until aldente) while your lamb sauce simmers
-After the lamb sauce has cooked for at least 30 minutes, turn off and remove from heat
-When pasta is done, add it to lamb mixture along with fresh parsley
-In a separate bowl, mix together yoghurt, crumbled feta cheese, egg and nutmeg. If you opt to use ricotta instead of feta, you may want to season yoghurt topping with some salt
-In a large baking dish ( eg. a lasagne or deep pudding dish -at least 3 litre capacity- brushed lightly with oil) add lamb/pasta mixture, spread out evenly
-Top lamb/pasta mixture with yoghurt sauce, sprinkle with parmesan and bake until top is golden brown (approximately half an hour)
-Serve with your favourite salad (Recipe is suitable to freeze)!