Greek Baked Ziti
- 1 pound ziti, regular or whole grain
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped or grated
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
- 2 pinches ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon allspice (about 1/3 palmful)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 can whole peeled tomatoes (15 ounces)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups milk
- A few grates fresh nutmeg
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or kefalotyri cheese, divided
- 2 pitas, toasted or 1 1/2 cups pita chips
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
- Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF. Place a large pot of water over high heat to cook the pasta. When the water is boiling, add some salt and drop the pasta. Cook to al dente, according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and reserve.
- Place a medium pot over medium-high heat with two turns of the pan of EVOO, about 2 tablespoons. Add the ground lamb to the pot and cook until golden brown, 5-6 minutes.
- Add the onion, garlic, carrot, thyme, cinnamon and allspice to the pot, season with salt and pepper and cook until the veggies are tender, 4-5 minutes.
- Add the can of tomatoes to the pot and gently break them up with a potato masher or back of a wooden spoon. Simmer the sauce until lightly thickened, 4-5 minutes.
- While the sauce is working, place another medium pot over medium-high heat with the butter. When the butter is melted, sprinkle in the flour and cook for about 1 minute. Whisk the milk and nutmeg into the butter-flour mixture and season with salt and pepper. Simmer until thickened, 3-4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the grated cheese (about 2 handfuls, just eyeball it) into the sauce.
- In the bowl of a food processor, crush up the toasted pita or pita chips to make coarse breadcrumbs. (You can also make the breadcrumbs in a large plastic food bag using a rolling pin or frying pan to smash them up.) Transfer the breadcrumbs to a small bowl and toss with the remaining cheese and parsley.
- Toss the cooked pasta with half of the white sauce. Transfer half of the pasta to a casserole dish and ladle the red sauce over top. Cover the red sauce with the remaining pasta and ladle the remaining white sauce over the top of the dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumb-cheese mixture over everything and bake until light golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes.