A Spicy, Versatile Meat Sauce

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Lachmacun-unbaked-Sw

Ground meat, from the local free-range veal of the island, is something that I use a lot. The dark red meat is delicious, but quite tough and stringy, and for that reason I prefer to choose a nice piece, usually soon after my butcher has slaughtered an animal, and mince the meat somewhat coarsely. Unlike most of our neighbors, I rarely make Keftedes, but sometimes I do make my kind of burger, mixing the minced meat with bacon, onion, herbs and plenty of breadcrumbs or ground rolled oats.

Spicy Ground Meat is one of the latest all-purpose sauces I try to have in my fridge or freezer, divided into cups. It makes no sense to cook less than one, or better two pounds of ground meat, as I did the other day. I mince the onions, garlic and add either grated carrots or mashed corn kernels, then the spices and flavorings, as well as the herbs. It only needs to briefly simmer with wine and lemon juice, and it is ready for many uses. It is insane to go to all the trouble and prepare just 2 cups of Spicy Ground Meat.

The resulting, pre-cooked Meat Sauce can be used simply with pasta, to make my kind of Eastern Mediterranean Bolognese with penne, tortiglioni, or any other large, hollow pasta shapes: Boil the pasta 1 min. less than the package suggests, reserving 1 cup of the water. Then warm the meat sauce over medium heat, toss with the pasta (3-4 cups meat sauce for 1 pound of pasta) and if it is too dry, pour in ½-1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Just before serving, I love to fold in coarsely chopped cilantro from the garden that makes everything more delicious. The sauce is flavorful enough, so you can omit the cheese; at least we do.

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With this same spicy meat sauce, I make an interesting version of Pastitsio, the baked pasta dish which becomes a more grown-up casserole than the comfort food we grew up eating. I complement pastitsio with Olive Oil and Yogurt Béchamel sauce, the same one I use in my Moussaka.

But my most favorite dish I make with the Spicy Meat is in a kind of Lachmacun, or ‘Arab Pizza’ as it is sometimes called: With bread dough –I prefer to use my whole grain one— I shape longish flat-breads, let them rest a bit, then mix 1egg into the ground meat so that the sauce sticks to the dough, keeping its shape as it bakes, and can be picked up and eaten without falling apart, as most Lachmacun do.

RECIPES: Spicy Meat Sauce

Lachmacun: Spicy Meat-topped Pita Bread

 

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