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Rigatoni with Lamb, Harissa, and Halloumi

Rigatoni with Lamb, Harissa, and Halloumi

Renée Robinson

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.

Ground Lamb

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. 

Harissa, and Halloumi

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.

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that, at no additional cost to you, may pay me a small commission and help support the costs of this website. Read full privacy policy here.

Rigatoni with Lamb, Harissa, and Halloumi

Recipe by Renée Robinson



Ground lamb, harissa, grated halloumi, and crisp buttery panko crumbs are all that's needed for this rigatoni. A bowl of pasta that is beautifully flavored, has interesting textures, and serves the need for a comforting meal.

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  • 2 tablespoons salted butter

  • 2 anchovy filets, finely minced

  • 2/3 cup panko bread crumbs

  • 1 pound rigatoni

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

  • 3/4 pound ground lamb

  • Kosher salt

  • Black pepper, freshly ground

  • 3 large cloves garlic, grated

  • 1/2 cup Mina spicy harissa *, or other similar light harissa that comes in a jar

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves, plus a few whole leaves for garnishing

  • 4 ounces halloumi, shredded


  • Heat a medium sized skillet over medium high heat. Add the butter and let it melt and sizzle until it starts browning. Add the anchovies, cook for 30 seconds and add the panko, tossing and cooking for an additional 2 or 3 minutes, until it’s golden brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until just before it reaches the al dente stage. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta.
  • In the meantime, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the lamb and a pinch of salt. Cook, breaking it up into small pieces, until it is no longer pink and starting to brown - about 7 or 8 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute or so. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the harissa. Let cook for a couple of minutes - only until it is fully heated through. You don’t want to reduce it.
  • Stir the pasta and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water into the sauce. Cook, while stirring for a minute or 2, just until the pasta reaches the al dente stage, adding more pasta water if necessary (I ended up using almost the whole cup). Stir in the mint and oregano. Add plenty of black pepper and taste for additional salt.
  • Spoon into pasta bowls, drizzle with some olive oil, and top with shredded halloumi and the reserved panko crumbs. Garnish with a few oregano leaves and serve. Enjoy!


2 Responses

  1. 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.

    1. 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!

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