Stay-at-Home Greek Casserole
16 ounces dried rigatoni (you could use any tubular pasta, like penne or ziti)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound 85/15 ground beef (you can use a leaner grind)
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon dried oregano, crumbled
1¼ teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground sumac (optional)
½ cup red wine
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
6 ounces crumbled feta
For the cheese sauce
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup all-purpose, unbleached flour
3 cups 1-percent milk (at room temperature)
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Cook the pasta according to package directions (slightly undercooking), drain, stir in the olive oil to prevent sticking and reserve.
Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add the ground lamb and beef and cook until it loses its pink color while breaking it up; about 7-8 minutes. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft about 5 minutes. Tilt the pan and, using a large spoon, spoon off most of the fat accumulated in the pan's bottom.
Return the pan to the heat. Add and stir in the oregano, salt, black pepper, cinnamon, and sumac (if using). Add the wine and cook about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and juice, lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside to cool.
While the meat mixture cools, make the cheese sauce:
Place a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. When the butter melts, whisk in the flour until combined, about 30 seconds. While whisking, slowly add the milk; whisking until there are no lumps. Continue cooking for 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese and cayenne pepper.
Place an oven rack in the center position and begin heating to 350 degrees.
Lightly brush the interior of a 10-by-15-inch pan (such as a lasagna pan) with olive oil. Add the pasta to the pan and pour the meat mixture over the pasta; stirring to combine.
Break the feta cheese into pieces and distribute evenly over the combined mixture; stir to combine. Spread the cheese sauce over the pasta mixture; smoothing the top. Bake for 25 minutes, raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees and bake for 10 more minutes until browned in spots. Remove from the oven and cool for about 15 minutes.
Notes: If you have two pounds of ground lamb; use it.
Got dried mint? Add 1-teaspoon at the same time all the other seasonings are added.
Nutrition values per serving: 685 calories (41 percent from fat), 31.5 g fat (15.1 g saturated fat), 59.3 g carbohydrates, 9.7 g sugars, 2.9 g fiber, 34.9 g protein, 119 mg cholesterol, 792 mg sodium.