Moussaka Pasta Toss and Spanikopita Salad
- 1 pound penne rigate
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 2 pinches of cinnamon (eyeball it)
- 1 teaspoon cumin (1/3 palmful)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Black pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 small eggplant
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2-2 1/2 cups milk
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (eyeball it)
- 1/2 cup parsley (about 2 handfuls), chopped
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 pound spinach leaves, stems removed, coarsely chopped
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup feta cheese crumbles
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
- 1 lemon
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it and cook pasta to al dente. Heads up: you will need a ladle of starchy cooking water drawn off just before the pasta is drained for the pasta sauce.
Pre-heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat with 2 tablespoons EVOO, two turns of the pan. Add the lamb and cook until browned, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon into small pieces, 3-4 minutes. Add in the garlic and chopped onion, season with allspice, cinnamon, cumin, oregano and salt and pepper, then cook another couple of minutes while you chop the eggplant.
Peel off half the skin of the eggplant. Leave a little skin on for texture and flavor. Chop the eggplant into a very small dice. Add the eggplant to the lamb and cook until it becomes soft, about 8-10 minutes more.
In a saucepot, melt the butter and whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and thicken, about 5 minutes. Bring this mixture up to a bubble and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Add this béchamel to the meat, then loosen up the mixture a bit with a ladle of starchy pasta cooking water. Add the pasta to the pan and toss for a minute to coat and combine. Serve in shallow bowls and top liberally with parsley and grated cheese.
In a large salad bowl, mix together the spinach, red onion, feta cheese and dill and dress the salad with the juice of 1 lemon and about 3 tablespoons EVOO. Season the salad with black pepper (the feta cheese is very salty and the salad might not need any extra salt).
Serve salad along with pasta.