Is a big heaping bowl of rigatoni smothered in ground lamb and spicy tomato sauce Kurdish food, strictly speaking? Probably not. But it is easy and delicious, they do eat it in the village when they’re low on meat. So there.
One thing I’ve learned about Kurdish people is that they love carbs. I mean, if you’ve ever seen a middle eastern person eat what is essentially a rice sandwich… Kurdish. So pasta is the perfect chance to introduce a little variety into your Kurdish kitchen and still please the crowd. And you definitely don’t have to be Kurdish to enjoy it, either. This is one of those rare, universally enjoyed dishes.
This dish is either a one-pot 40 minute dish or a two-pot 25 minute dish. Personally, I only have one pot big enough to hold four servings of pasta, so I have to do it the long way.
You will need:
1 lb of rigatoni, bowtie, or penne dry pasta
1/2 lb ground lamb (or beef)
1/2 lb sliced or chopped mushrooms (optional)
1 Bell pepper
2 Cloves garlic
2 large tomato, or 4-5 medium/ small tomatoes
2 spoonful of spicy tomato paste, if you have it, or regular tomato paste
1 big handful of parsley
Salt, pepper, olive oil, red pepper flakes
1) Start with boiling your water. Put in lots and lots of salt; I can’t stress this enough. The water should taste salty, like the ocean. I’m serious. If you have 2 pots, you can start with Step 4 at the same time.
2) Start finely chopping your onions, garlic, and green peppers. When your salty water is boiling, dump in the pasta and cook to instructions. To a man, all the Kurdish people I know like this dish with well-done or even over-done pasta. But you can cook it al dente if that’s your pleasure.
3) When the pasta is nearly done, remove 1 full cup of the pasta water and set aside. The sauce tastes a lot better with the pasta water and if you used your fancy sea-salt I’m sure you’ll be glad to retrieve some of it. I do this without burning my fingers by dipping a mug in the water by it’s handle. You could use a ladle too, I guess. Dump your pasta into a colander and if you’re a one-pot person or are not done with the sauce yet, cool the pasta with cold water and then pour some olive oil on it to keep from sticking.
4) Pour a nice coat of olive oil into your newly free pot and allow it to warm up before putting in your ground meat. I like to add a little garlic in at this stage and some salt and pepper. Fry until brown.
5) Add your bell peppers and fry till they have softened. Then add your onions, soften. Add more garlic, and mushrooms if you have them.
6) Put your tomato paste into your pasta water and mix well until the tomato paste has melted somewhat. Pour the mixture in with the meat and veggies. Allow to simmer uncovered while stirring constantly. Flavor with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.
7) When flavors have combined, spread out the tomatoes and parsley over the other ingredients and cover without mixing. Allow to simmer on a low-medium heat for 5 minutes, then mix and cover again. It should look something like this!
8) Take a taste and season if necessary. Dump the pasta into your sauce and stir for a while on very low heat. Then you’re ready to eat!
Side note: This dish is actually so delicious that I keep forgetting to take photos of the finished product. My bad. Update forthcoming!
Vegan/Vegetarian rating: Take the meat out of this dish, double-check your brand of pasta and BAM! Vegan! Vegetarians can always substitute a fake meat or even egg for the meat, but I think it might be even better just to increase the amount of veggies and definitely introduce the optional mushrooms for texture. Cheese is completely unnecessary.