I can’t believe I am saying this but, the credit for this za’atar pasta recipe completely goes to my husband. This unconventional pasta dish combines his favorite flavors, za’atar, pine nuts, and lamb, making a super flavorful and earthy anytime pasta dish. 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.
What is Za’atar?
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.
What You’ll Need for Za’atar Pasta
- Pasta – players choice here. I went with orecchiette for this recipe because it holds ground meats well.
- Ground Lamb – This one might be difficult to find. I often find it pre-packaged in the meat section. If you can not find ground lamb ground turkey/chicken or ground pork are good substitutions. Note that substituting will loose that slightly gamy flavor that ground lamb has. While I love the addition of lamb to this dish, it can easily be taken out to make this vegetarian.
- Za’atar – You are looking for the dried spice blend here. A lot of companies are now selling it pre-mixed with oil and other additives as a spread, avoid these. If you are having a hard time finding za’atar you COULD make your own but chances are if you can’t find za’atar you wont be able to find sumac to make za’atar. I have ordered THIS ONE in the past. Yes its big, but there are countless uses for it. Trust me, this won’t be the last TBA recipe that uses this spice blend.
- Pine Nuts
- Parmesan Cheese
- Olive Oil
Za’atar Lamb Pasta
- 1/2 lb pasta
- 3/4 lb ground lamb
- 2 1/2 tbsp za'atar
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese freshly grated
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- Prepare pasta as per packaging in salty water. Reserve 1/4 of a cup of the pasta water, drain and put on the side.
- 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.
- Increase the heat to medium. Add in ground lamb, breaking it up with a large spoon. Cook for 6-8 minutes until cooked through. Remove lamb and put on the side.
- Drain the majority of the lamb fat, leaving approx a 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 blend for 1-2 minutes. Add lamb back in, toss. Add in salt, a tbsp or 2 of pasta water + pasta. Add in grated parm. Toss. Once combined add in toasted pine nuts and toss once more. Enjoy!