I try not to make pasta too often because Mike does not like whole wheat pasta. I tend to make dishes with brown rice, farro or bulgur so that we get whole grains. I saw a recipe in Food & Wine by Michael Mina I wanted to make that sounded incredible. It includes ground lamb with some of my favorites spices and flavors-cumin, harissa, garlic and smoked paprika. I also appreciated that it has canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes and mint. Here's the link http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/strozzapreti-with-lamb-ragu.
Strozzapreti is the shape of pasta. I could not find it in my regular store but I did find one that fit the description of a "ridge along its length". The pasta I chose has a kind of open ridge and was called fusilli but looks different from the fusilli I am used to, below left. This fusilli was not a corkscrew but a tube with 1 kind of open ridge, below right. Look for a similar shape that will pick up the sauce.
Strozzapreti with Lamb Ragù my way
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/2 tablespoon crushed red chili flakes or to taste
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
~3/4 pound ground lamb
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 large garlic cloves, peeled, cored and pressed
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon harissa (I buy this in tubes at the grocery store. It's with the tubes of anchovy paste. Spicy and addictive.)
1/2 28 ounce carton Pomi chopped tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 pound dried fusilli pasta or similar shape
1 pint ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
sprig of mint leaves, chopped
freshly grated Pecorino cheese, for serving
In a large saute pan, combine the fennel, cumin, crushed chili flakes and peppercorns and cook over moderate heat until fragrant, 2 minutes. Let cool, then wrap in cheesecloth and tie into a bundle.
Heat pan and add the lamb, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, breaking it up , until browned, 3-5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the lamb.
Pour off most of the fat from the pan. Add the garlic and onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, ~8 minutes. Add alittle olive oil if it gets too dry. Stir in the spice bundle, paprika, harissa, tomatoes and their liquid and the stock. Return the lamb and accumulated juices to the pan and bring to a simmer.
Cover the ragù and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and simmer until thickened, about 50 minutes longer. Discard the spice bundle and season the ragù with salt and pepper.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and add to the sauce pan. Stir. Fold in the cherry tomatoes and the mint. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with Pecorino or using rasp grate directly onto bowls of lamb ragù and pasta.
This was a wonderful meal; spicy, meaty and full of fresh and canned tomatoes. The mint brings a bright taste but is not overpowering. A friend told me she couldn't imagine mint in a dish like this. I think she said "yucky". If you're unsure of the mint try a small amount. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. It was a real treat to have pasta and yes, we had it with California sparkling wine, Schramberg 2008 Blanc de Noir. We enjoyed this meal on a Friday night and I had had a particularly good week at work so we were celebrating. I hope you can do the same soon. Enjoy!