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Greek Baked Pasta

Photo: © Yunhee Kim
Yield 6
The moist and fragrant casserole pastitsio combines béchamel (a sauce of butter, flour and milk), pasta, ground lamb, tomato sauce, cheese, cinnamon and nutmeg. Instead of béchamel, Grace Parisi stirs a ricotta mixture into the pasta before baking it.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground lamb
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 cups jarred marinara sauce
  • 1 pound ziti or penne
  • 3 cups fresh ricotta, 1 1/2 pounds
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

How to Make It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the lamb, onion, oregano, cinnamon, cloves and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the lamb is no longer pink and any liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Add the marinara sauce and bring to a boil. Boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has reduced slightly, about 5 minutes.

  2. Cook the pasta until barely al dente; drain and return to the pot. Meanwhile, in a blender, blend 2 cups of the ricotta with the yolks, nutmeg and 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Pulse in the remaining ricotta.

  3. Add the lamb ragů to the pasta and toss. Transfer the pasta to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the ricotta mixture on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes, until heated through. Turn the broiler on and broil until the top is golden brown. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.