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Pasta with Turkish-Style Lamb, Eggplant, and Yogurt Sauce

Author: Favorite Recipes from Melissa Clark's Kitchen by Melissa Clark

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large eggplant, about 1 pound, cut into about 1-inch cubes
  • 5 tbs olive oil
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • ¼ tsp Aleppo pepper flakes, more as desired
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 ½ tbs chopped fresh mint or dill (I’ve used both, either works great)
  • ½ pound bow-tie pasta
  • 6 tbs unsalted butter
  • cup plain Greek yogurt

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 450℉. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
  • Grease a large baking sheet. Toss the eggplant with 4 tbs oil and a large pinch of salt. Spread on the baking sheet and roast until crisp and brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining tbs oil. Add the ground lamb. Cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until crumbled and cooked through. No pink traces should remain. Now add 2 of the minced garlic cloves and the shallot. Cook one minute more, until softened and cooked. Add salt, Aleppo pepper, and black pepper. Stir in the mint or dill and cook another minute to let the flavors marry together. Add the eggplant and keep on very low heat until ready to assemble the dish.
  • Cook the past in the boiling water according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small, preferably stainless steel saucepan, melt the butter. Cook until it turns golden brown and smells nutty. Yep, you’re browning butter!
  • In a small bowl, combine the yogurt and remaining garlic clove with a pinch of salt. Stir until smooth.
  • Now, to assemble. Drain the pasta and spread it out onto a large platter. Top with the lamb-eggplant mixture. Dollop the yogurt sauce, then pour the melted brown butter evenly over the entire platter. Sprinkle on more Aleppo pepper and extra mint or dill. Serve immediately.

Notes

Recipe is slightly adapted from Favorite Recipes from Melissa Clark’s Kitchen by (of course) Melissa Clark. It’s inspired by the Turkish dish manti, which are labor-intensive hand-formed lamb dumplings. Using pasta is the shortcut. I’ve never had manti, but I’ve made this dish several times, and I gotta say, the shortcut is fine by me. A few notes: don’t dice your eggplant too small or it will either burn or turn to mush. Speaking of eggplant, grease the baking sheet first. Eggplant soaks up oil like nobody’s business and I’ve had burning/sticking problems when I didn’t grease the pan first. If you don’t have Aleppo pepper, DON’T sub in regular crushed red pepper flakes. They’re too hot and not appropriate here. Order the Aleppo pepper online. It’s worth it. You may be questioning the ratios here, or was that just me? It's correct. It sounds like too much meat and eggplant for only half a pound of pasta, but it’s not. Make as written! Don’t ask me how I know this. This sounds like a complicated dish, but it’s forgiving. The lamb-eggplant mixture and the yogurt can hang until you’re ready for them. My method is to make those first, let them wait on me, and brown the butter in the last 5 or so minutes that the pasta is boiling. Then as soon as the pasta is done, you can assemble and eat right away.