I can’t believe I am saying this but, the credit for this za’atar pasta recipe completely goes to my husband. Not going to lie I was a little hesitant about this one only because it mixes such strong Middle Eastern flavors with well something that is not Middle Eastern, but after tasting it again, and again, and again I knew I needed to put this one up. Just 25 minutes, and 7 ingredients you have an easy pasta dish that is great for a weekday lunch or even a quick and easy weeknight dinner. Looking for other great pasta dishes, check out my Mushroom, Sausage, & Kale Pasta or Pasta, Peas, and Bacon.
Za’atar is a classic Middle Eastern earthy and savory spice blend comprised of thyme, oregano, marjoram, sumac, cumin, sesame seeds, and salt, with some varieties also having additional earthy spices added such as cumin and coriander. This spice blend is extremely versatile and can be used in countless recipes. Add olive oil and you have a great dipping oil for breads and pitas. Add it to hummus, baba ganoush, or labneh to add a savory and depth of flavor to your dip. Za’atar is a great addition to meat, roasted vegetables, and I would even go as far to say it makes a killer dressing for salads.
Toast the Pine Nuts – In a dry pot on low heat, toast the pine nuts for 3-5 minutes stirring occasionally until fragrant and golden brown. Do not walk away, pine nuts burn incredibly fast if left unattended. Remove pine nuts from pot and place on the side.
Brown the Meat – In the same pan we are going to brown the meat. Increase the heat to medium. Add in ground lamb with a heavy pinch of salt, breaking it up with the back of a large spoon large spoon. Cook for 6-8 minutes until cooked through. The less you touch it the more it will brown and crisp up. Once cooked through remove from the pan.
Construct the “Sauce” – Drain the majority of the lamb fat, leaving approx. 1 tbsp. Turn down the heat to low once more. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil and garlic. Cook garlic for 3 minutes until soft and fragrant. Careful not to burn the garlic. If it begins to turn brown lower the heat even more. Add in za’atar and bloom the spice for 1-2 minutes. Add the lamb back in, a tbsp or 2 of pasta water + pasta. Top it off with grated parm. Toss to combine. Once combined add in toasted pine nuts and toss once more.
Truth me told I don’t love storing cooked ground meat. With that said this dish is best eaten immediately, but if you have leftovers they can be stored in an airtight container for 1-2 days. Best method of reheating is to put it back in a pan with a splash of pasta water. If you haven’t hopped on the boat and started freezing pasta water then use a splash of water instead. Think 1-2 tbsp.