A pasta bake is a comforting, homely meal that is simple to make. Chermoula, cinnamon and lamb give this dish a slightly Moroccan flavour profile.
500g lamb mince
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 white onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped (optional)
2 celery sticks, finely chopped (optional)
1 jar Chermoula
½tsp Smoked Paprika
½tsp ground cinnamon
400g tin of plum tomatoes
2tbsp tomato purée
1 chicken/vegetable stock cube
100g grated cheese
50g dried breadcrumbs (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Place a wide pan or casserole dish on a medium to high heat and when hot, add the lamb mince. Season with salt and pepper then use a wooden spoon to break the lamb up into small pieces as it cooks. Add a little of the Olive Oil if it looks like it is sticking badly. Keep cooking until all the water from the lamb has evaporated then continue to cook for a few minutes more until the meat begins to brown.
Empty the pan into a bowl then place it back on the heat, add the Olive Oil and when hot, add the garlic, onion, carrot and celery. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and sweet, turning down the heat if it begins to caramelise or take on too much colour. Add the Chermoula, Smoked Paprika and cinnamon and cook for another 2–3 minutes, so that you can smell the aroma of the herbs and spices.
Add the lamb back to the pan, along with the tinned tomatoes (rinse out the tin with a little bit of water to get everything out), tomato purée, stock cube and 200ml of water. Bring to a strong simmer, stirring to break up the tomatoes and stock cube. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes so that the flavours concentrate. It should be the consistency of a loose bolognese, so cook for longer if it looks a bit wet. Taste, then add salt and pepper as you think necessary.
Whilst the lamb is simmering, heat your oven to 180C/Fan 160C/Gas Mark 4. Place a large pan of salted water on a high heat, cover and bring to the boil. Add the Penne and cook for 8–10 minutes, stirring so that they do not stick together. The Penne should be cooked less than if you were eating it straight away, as it will continue to cook when it is baked in the oven, so it is fine if it still has some resistance. Drain into a colander then set aside.
Combine the Penne and the lamb sauce together in the pot the pasta was cooked in. Stir well so that all the pasta is coated. Spoon into a ceramic or metal roasting tray around 25cm x 25cm. Cover with the grated cheese and breadcrumbs if using them and place in the oven. Bake for 30–40 minutes or until a crust forms on the top and around the edges.
Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes, then serve.