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Playing Greek Baked Ziti

Rachael puts Greek flavors into an Italian favorite.


  • Salt
  • 1 pound ziti
  • 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 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
  • 2 pinches ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice (about ⅓ palmful)
  • Ground black pepper
  • One 15-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 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 ½ cups pita chips
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped


Serves: 4


Preheat oven to 375 °F. 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 package directions. Drain the pasta and reserve.

Place a medium pot over medium-high heat with 2 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 2 tablespoons 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 ½ 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 do make the breadcrumbs in a large plastic food bag using a rolling pin or frying pan to smash them up.) Transfer the crumbs to a small bowl and toss with the remaining cheese and parsley. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and add it to the breadcrumb-cheese mixture.

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.