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Ground lamb is traditional in this dish and we like the flavor, but you can substitute 90 percent lean ground beef if you prefer. If using 90 percent lean ground beef, do not drain the meat in step 2.
1 pound ground lamb
1 onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz elbow macaroni (2 cups)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Making the minutes count:
While the lamb browns, mince the onion. While the onion cooks, mince the oregano.
- Heat Oven: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees.
- Cook and Drain Lamb: Cook lamb in 12-inch skillet over medium heat, breaking it into pieces with wooden spoon until fat renders, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain lamb, reserving 1 tablespoon fat.
- Saute Aromatics: Add tablespoon of reserved fat to skillet and return to medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Simmer Macaroni: Stir in broth, 1/2 cup of cream, macaroni, and drained lamb. Increase heat to high and cook, stirring often, until macaroni tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Thicken Sauce: Whisk remaining 1/2 cup cream and cornstarch together, then stir into skillet. Continue to simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
- Add Cheese and Bake: Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan over top. Bake until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Serve.
GG’s Thoughts: This will immediately become a staple for us. If you split it between two nights, and eat a green on the side, it’s really not that bad for you. Yes, it has cream and cheese, but the majority of the sauce consists of onions and chicken broth. I found it filling, delightfully seasoned, and yes still light enough to be a great fall dish before diving into soups/stews/braises for the winter. I have already forwarded it to a co-worker because she said it sounded so good, and M has requested it be put into the pile of “Out-of-ideas-what-is-a-delicious-go-to,” and I must say that very few recipes make it past “delicious” to “must make again next week”. This one certainly did, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it!
One note: On step 3, when you add the tomato paste, garlic, and oregano, it all becomes very thick (the onions don’t let off nearly as much water as usual because of the cinnamon), but that’s what you want. It deepens the flavor by toasting the herb and tomato paste, and of course getting a richer garlic flavor, all within 30 seconds. I was very happy in the end that I ignored my gut instinct to pour the broth in right away and instead let everything toast as it should.
(Recipe courtesy of The Best 30-Minute Recipe, 2006, Cook’s Illustrated)