Now I am always extolling my love of lamb and many in my family balk at it. Let them eat cake(I think my friend Michelle Ragussis will agree).
Pastitsio literally means anything from 'pasta' to 'mess'. Maybe it has something to do with how it used to look in days past but the site of Pastitsio now is quite enticing, with the aroma second to none.
There are many ways of preparing this Greek dish, and some of them are complicated, requiring the preparation of either Mornay or Bechamel sauce, along with many other herbs and/or seasonings. Here is a simplified version of Pastitsio with the same great flavor without the added steps.
I have always said that if I were to choose one vegetable that goes perfectly with lamb, it would be green beans. Both the first and second Yankee Chefs agreed and always, when able, prepare lamb with green beans.
8 ounces elbow macaroni
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup cooked green beans, cut in 1-inch segments
1 pound ground lamb
1/2 small onion, minced
1 teaspoon minced garlic in oil
1 can(8-ounce) tomato puree
1 teaspoon oregano
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or allspice
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Stir the beaten eggs and nutmeg into the pasta well: set aside.
Spray the bottom and half way up the side of a 2 quart casserole dish or 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Lay the prepared pasta in the bottom of the dish followed by the green beans evenly over the top: set aside.
Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a large skillet, cook lamb, onion and garlic over medium heat until done. Drain if preferred but I leave the juices in the pan. Stir in the tomato puree, oregano, pepper and cinnamon. Reduce to low heat and simmer 5 minutes.
Spread this mixture over the pasta. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, whisk well and add the milk. Continue cooking and constantly stirring until thickened, about 5 minutes. Pour over the meat mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake 30-35 minutes or until Pastitsio is set and the top is bubbling.
Now many of you may balk at this recipe while some may rather enjoy it as I have for years. My father made this recipe when I was a young teen and it was my first taste of lamb. Technically not Pastitisio, for it probably should be called Lamb Flavored Spaghetti, but it does blend lamb and pasta none-the-less. Go ahead and try it, it is phenomenal.
Slow-cooked Yanked Lamb Pastitsio
Lamb shanks are used here because of their cost effectiveness. While up here in New England, the butchering season for lamb isn't until about the first of July thorough until late fall, I can't get any lamb stew meat or trimmings my father used. As for the lack of this spice and that herb, I simply love the taste of lamb without any masking of flavor what-so-ever.Simply, exploding with flavor and satisfying, you will love the richness of your own Yanked Pastitsio. I have made this dish using only the drippings from a roasted lamb as well, bringing the pan of lamb juice directly onto the burner and boiling my spaghetti in it. To me, as long as the pasta tastes like lamb, I don't care how it is cooked.
For 2 servings
2 tablespoons oil
2 lamb shanks
1 teaspoon minced garlic in oil
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup tomato puree
Salt and pepper to taste, optional;
8 ounces spaghetti
parsley for garnish, optional
Have butcher cut shanks into 2-3 small pieces. In large pot, add the oil over medium high heat. When hot, add the cut shanks and cook, stirring frequently, until browned all over. Add the garlic, carrot and continue cooking and stirring another 3 minutes. Add 1 cup vegetable broth to the pot and bring to a boil while scraping the bottom of the pot to lift up the fond. Add tomato puree and additional broth to cover lamb by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to the lowest heat available and simmer, uncovered, for 3 hours. You can also use a crock pot at this point as well, just make sure it is uncovered. You want the liquid to reduce by at least half or until it is dark and condensed.
Remove from heat, skim the fat that has accumulated on top. Remove chunks of lamb and carrots*. Strain broth into another pot using a fine mesh sieve. This will be your lamb broth. Place back onto the burner, over low heat and add spaghetti. Sir and cook until spaghetti is to your desired doneness. Remove spaghetti to 2 plates and pour remainder lamb broth over each. Sprinkle cheese and parsley over the top and serve.
* I saved the lamb meat and had a cold lamb sandwich with cucumber aoili the following day. Hey if I can make two meals out of one, why not? After all, I am a Yankee.