A farm kitchen in winter is a magical place of warmth, rich aromas and family. The kitchen table, always the social hub, fills with neighbors and friends for long cups of coffee, tasty bites and special conversations. The “mad dash and out the door to grab the last bit of light” moments of other seasons is gone.
As the rain patters against the windows, there is time to plan and prepare, to share, laugh and tell stories. Great food in our family is an outright expression of love. Chocolate chip cookies when the boys have friends over, decadent macaroni and cheese to offset snowy days, oven-roasted beets and carrots claimed from the wet garden. Serving what we grow ourselves is a matter of special pride, and we celebrate those meals sourced solely from the farm the most. The next best are recipes that have been shared by dear friends over the years, sublimely adjusted to our family’s tastes, traditions and timelines as the years go by.
This recipe is one of those, an absolute staple for the cold days, fancy enough to share with friends, satisfying enough to feed the teens, simple enough to prepare in advance or serve on a whim. I am sure it is a variation on traditional Greek moussaka, but came from the incredible kitchen of my friend Claire Clark at Verde Orchards. Based on a “Pasta and Co. By Request” cookbook start, it morphed over the years into what we affectionately call “Lambie Lasagna.”
Serve with a fresh romaine salad heavy in avocado, winter pear, pecans and balsamic vinegar. Finish off with a peppery New Zealand Pinot Noir or Napa Cabernet. Keep dessert light!
2 pounds ground grass-fed lamb
1 pound ground grass-fed beef
2 cups onion, peeled, coarsely minced
2 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
3 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
3½ cups crushed tomatoes
2 cups diced tomatoes
1½ cups chicken stock
½ cup Chardonnay
½ cup tomato paste
Cook ground lamb and beef together until no longer pink, drain off all fat, then return meat to pan. Crumble well. Add onions, garlic, oregano, pepper, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Cook another 15 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve. To keep clean up easy, use a Dutch oven that you can serve it in as well.
Pasta: 14 ounces dry penne pasta
Cook pasta 2 to 3 minutes only in boiling water (it will continue to cook in the dish). Rinse with cold water, drain well until nearly dry, then fold into meat sauce.
1 pound feta cheese
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Fold all the feta and one cup of Parmesan cheese into the meat and pasta sauce and transfer to a 9 × 13” oven-proof pan or keep in the Dutch oven. Sprinkle the remaining cup of Parmesan on top and sprinkle very lightly with a touch of cinnamon.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake covered for 45 minutes, uncovered for 15 minutes, adding aluminum foil if the top starts to brown too much. Let the dish sit for at least 5 minutes prior to serving.