Actual Greeks would probably take umbrage at our title here. We're throwing some olives and feta in our pasta and calling it Greek? Well, sort of, yes.
Have you ever made pasta with ground lamb? When I buy it, it's almost always for meatballs. But I decided to throw it into some leftover macaroni (you could use any short, fat pasta), and it was delicious. Lamb is not that expensive, either, and adds a really nice richness. The zucchini just gives it a bit of green, although you could also use green olives.
I was reminded recently of the hilarious quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding (speaking of stereotypes...) where the aunt says, "What do you mean he don't eat no MEAT? That's ok. I make lamb." And when I was crumbling in the ground lamb, I couldn't stop thinking about it. So this became Greek(ish) pasta.
There is a whole category of recipes that I like to call "While the Pasta Boils." This is one of them, and it is very good. This is not surprising since it comes from Elizabeth, who was one of our most inventive recipe developers when it came to quick, throw-it-together dinners that also managed to have more than a touch of the gourmet and the elegant.
It's a quick job: brown the lamb, sauté zucchini (or any other quick-cooking vegetable) in its fat, then toss with jarred olives and peppadew peppers, and feta cheese.
The lamb's sweet meaty flavor is prominent in this dish, but you could do with less meat. Even a half pound would be plenty to turn the pasta into a full meal. You could also use green olives instead of kalamata, or leave the peppadews out. I wanted a little heat so I shook in some red pepper flakes, which balanced the sweetness of the lamb and the peppadew peppers.
You can see from the way this recipe flows how to adapt it to whatever you have: brown a little meat (mine came out of the freezer), add some vegetables and some reliable pantry treasures like olives or capers, and you have yourself a meal. All while the pasta boils. — Faith
Greek(ish) Pasta with Lamb, Zucchini, and Feta
1 pound short, fat, and curly pasta, such as radiatori or macaroni
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground lamb
Red pepper flakes, optional
1 pound zucchini, about 2 medium, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
8 to 10 peppadew peppers, sliced
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Cook the pasta in generously-salted water, according to package directions.
While the pasta cooks, brown the lamb in your deepest, widest sauté pan (a Dutch oven would work as well). Cook the lamb over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to break it into crumbles. Cover, if desired, with a spatter guard to keep the lamb fat from spattering all over the stove. Cook for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until the lamb is completely cooked and beginning to crisp up and get deeply browned. If desired, sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
Add the zucchini and continue cooking over medium-high heat for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, or until the zucchini is hot but still crisp. Toss in the olives and sliced peppers, and cook for an additional 1 minute or until they are heated through. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Drain the cooked pasta and return the pasta to the cooking pot. Toss with the zucchini and lamb (include the juices and fat from the pan). Stir thoroughly then top with the crumbled feta. Serve immediately.
More Greek(ish) Pasta:
(Post and recipe updated from original published June 29, 2010.)
(Image credits: Faith Durand)