Come on. Doesn’t This Sound Good?
When I set out to make this, here’s what I had in mind. Pasta in which the pasta is front and center. Rigatoni is kind of in your face as far as pasta shapes go and I don’t think it makes sense to use it unless you’re going to really enjoy biting into a big ole piece of pasta.
A saucy type of dish didn’t seem right to me. That big pasta shape only needs something highly flavored, but not necessarily wet, in order to enjoy it. I decided lamb would do the trick. Lamb is already fully flavored, so I only needed a few other ingredients to make this really sing. While it certainly isn’t necessary, I happen to have a meat grinder attachment* for my KitchenAid stand mixer, and love grinding my own meats. It’s been a real eye opener to see how much better my cooking with ground meats has become since I started grinding my own.
I only used 3/4 pound of ground leg of lamb for this dish. It didn’t need any more. The texture of the home ground lamb is much more chewy than the mushy ground lamb in my grocery store. Plus, I can control the level of fat – approximately 20% is just right for this dish.
I don’t know if any of you have tried this particular brand of harissa – Mina*, but I’ve grown to really like it when I want a fresher tasting harissa, rather than an intensely flavored one which contains a lot of oil. This one tastes predominantly of red peppers. It comes in 2 styles, mild and spicy. I think the spicy is much better. It’s not very hot and has a more interesting flavor profile than the mild version. A half cup was perfect for providing the right amount of flavor and moisture.
Since I decided on harissa and lamb, grated halloumi cheese seemed like a logical choice for a topping. I love how it doesn’t melt, but maintains its structure, so that you can really taste the individual bits of it in each bite.
After browning the lamb with some garlic, I added the harissa, stirred in the pasta with some pasta water, chopped oregano and mint, and it was done. Each piece of pasta was only lightly coated in the sauce, which is how I wanted it.
I also love crispy toppings on pasta, so earlier I had quickly sautéed some panko crumbs in butter with a couple of minced anchovy filets. I only used 2 because I didn’t so much want powerful anchovy flavor as I just wanted some well seasoned crispy crumbs.
This was a simple pasta dinner – fully flavored, interesting textures, comforting, and far from boring. Just what I had in mind.
Just made this tonight, and it was hit! I did use the whole pound of lamb, then adjusted everything else (we’re a saucy family 😉). The flavors all coalesced into something delicious. I loved the fresh herbsciousness of the oregano and mint.
I’m so glad you made it and liked it, Karen!! It’s an easy recipe that packs a lot of flavor, isn’t it? Thanks so much for letting me know!