This Greek-inspired Baked Orzo with Lamb may not be the most beautiful dish that I’ve ever served up, but when it comes to comfort food it can’t be beat. This stick-to-your-ribs meal reminds me of a cross between baked ziti and dirty ice: plump orzo is combined with a thick, chunky tomato sauce, spinach, feta, and deliciously seasoned ground lamb before its baked to perfection. Alongside a simple cucumber and tomato salad (chop and toss with red wine vinegar, sea salt, and fresh dill), this meal is the perfect way to transition to fall’s chilly evenings.
Ground lamb can be hard to find sometimes, but it’s worth seeking out for the rich flavor that it contributes to this dish. If you can’t find it — or don’t care for it — ground beef also works well. For a vegetarian version, you can also substitute chopped mushrooms. I also like to use an oven-safe cast iron pan (I’m obsessed with this pan) when I make this, because it prevents me from dirtying a second dish. If you don’t have a pan that can go in the oven, simply transfer the mixture to a baking pan before topping it with the Asiago.
This dish only takes about 40 minutes to prepare - including 20 minutes in the oven - but it tastes like you've been cooking all day! In order to save a few minutes of active cooking time, prep your vegetables while the lamb is cooking.
- 8 oz orzo
- 6 oz ground lamb
- 1 onion, diced
- 1/2 fennel bulb, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 beefsteak tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 cup red wine (optional)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 Tbs tomato paste
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 3 oz feta, crumbled
- 1 oz asiago, shredded (can also use parmesan)
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Prepare the orzo according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, set an oven-safe pan (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. When the pan is nice and hot, add the lamb. Cook the lamb, breaking it up with a spoon, until it is browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan, leaving any drippings that have rendered, and set aside. Add the onion, fennel, and garlic to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, or until softened and golden brown. Add the oregano, tomatoes, wine, cumin, cinnamon, and tomato paste. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have cooked down into a thick sauce. Add the cooked lamb, spinach, and feta. Stir until the spinach has wilted. Stir in the prepared orzo. Sprinkle the asiago over the top.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese on top has melted and the sauce is bubbling hot.