Roasted Lamb with Pasta

Giouvetsi

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Any kind of meat or poultry can be used to make Giouvetsi, but I prefer lamb. One can also use any kind of pasta (spaghetti, elbow macaroni, penne), but Greeks generally use kritharaki, the rice-shaped pasta that Americans call orzo.

This dish is best when made with fresh, ripe tomatoes and when eaten piping hot, sprinkled with freshly grated mizithra, the hard and tangy Greek goat’s milk cheese.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds boneless shoulder or leg of lamb
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 small fresh chili pepper, minced
  • cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Sea salt
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 pound orzo
  • 1 cup grated mizithra or other tangy hard cheese

Method

Preheat the oven to 475° F.

Rub the lamb with the lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Peel 3 cloves of garlic and cut each clove in half lengthwise. Cut slits into the flesh on all sides of the lamb and insert the garlic halves.

Place the lamb in a deep earthenware baking dish and brush it with olive oil. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350° F. and continue roasting for 30 to 40 minutes more, or until almost done, basting frequently with the pan juices. If there isn’t enough juice, use a little chicken stock.

In the meantime, make the tomato sauce. Heat the remaining oil in a skillet and sauté the onion over low heat until soft. Peel and mince the remaining garlic and add it to the onion. When soft, add the chili pepper, chopped tomatoes, sugar, salt, and cinnamon sticks. Cook for 5 minutes.

Transfer the lamb to a heated dish and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Pour the boiling tomato sauce into the baking dish and stir to mix with the cooking juices. Add 2 cups chicken stock and the orzo and stir again. Return to the oven and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally because the pasta tends to stick, until the orzo is cooked al dente and has absorbed most of the pan juices. Add more chicken stock, if necessary.

When the pasta is almost cooked, remove the cinnamon sticks and place the lamb on top of the orzo. Baste with the tomato sauce, then return to the oven and continue roasting until the orzo is cooked to your taste.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with the cheese.

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