Spaghetti with a Twist

Earlier this week, I met one of my many cousins for lunch. He was helping me take care of some boring adult-like stuff, but we managed to spend a majority of the afternoon talking about food. We are both now motherless adults and speaking to him made me realize, once again, how much comfort and connection food holds. His mother was the closest thing to a mom that I had after my mother passed away. Even though she had 4 children of her own, my aunt was always there to provide me with memories and a warm meal whenever I took the time to drop in for a visit. Like most of my aunts, this one was short and feisty and took no shit from anyone.

I miss having all these awesome women in my life. Women I didn’t appreciate nearly enough when they were around. I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s just how I’m feeling.

On to the food! I know that combining spaghetti with lamb shoulder, cinnamon, allspice and tomato paste (with other ingredients, of course), and then baking it doesn’t sound all that appealing to most people, but I assure you it’s delicious.

Amazingly, the cooking process for this dish was pretty accurate to the recipe I posted earlier. Just note that you’ll need to use about 6-7 cups of water when boiling the meat and then using two small cans (or one large) of tomato paste. I seasoned the meat pre-tomato and then again after. Pre-tomato you should aim for about 2/3 tsp of allspice, tsp. of cinnamon, pepper and salt to taste. After the sauce, I added a few shakes of allspice and cinnamon and at least another 1/2 tbs. of salt and pepper.

I’m really happy with how this turned out. I still think it was missing a little something, but I’m thrilled with my first attempt. I think I’ll used beef next time around because I just prefer the taste. But, the feeling I got from tasting the dish before it went in the oven brought back so many memories. I was 7 years old all over again.  Eventually, I’ll be able to get to a point where I can effectively communicate to everyone how emotionally overwhelming cooking these dishes really is for me. In time, I’ll be more comfortable moving past the food and sharing more about the women, my mom in particular, who helped define the woman I am today.

This is what it looks like when you sautee meat.

Saucealicious

Spaghetti!

...and the two shall meet.

This is what baked spaghetti looks like.

Nom.

Recipe of the week: Spaghetti with lamb

Ah, yes. This week we’re going to explore the ancient Arabic secret of spaghetti. This dish was one of my favorites growing up and I have to say that my paternal grandmother’s recipe of saneeya (baked) spaghetti gave my mom’s a run for its masaari (money).

I, sadly, don’t have my tata’s recipe for this dish. I thankfully do still remember when she would make it for me though. I spent many a Saturday hanging out at my tata’s house. She lived in this awesome house that sat right at the corner of Hawthorne and Mandell in the Montrose. It had red shag carpet, bars on all the doors and windows (one can never be to careful, yo)  and a huge kitchen where she would make me food. Interestingly enough, she also had like three freezers. She kept one unplugged and used it to store, well, everything imaginable; spices, cash and  crinkled brown bags filled with randomness to name a few.

She knew how much I loved this dish in its pre-baked phase and she’d always cook it for me when I asked for it. It’s so simple, but something about the way she spiced it was perfect. It was the right ratio of tomato to pasta to spice. It had a slight kick to it that definitely set the tone for my love of spicy vs. sweet tomato-y-based dishes.

My mom was a pro at making this dish, too. But, when I think about saneeya, my memory always takes me back to my tata and how much she loved cooking this for me. I’ve tried several times over the years to duplicate her sauce, but it’s never worked. I always did it by memory vs. a recipe – mainly because I never had access to one.

So here’ s my mama’s version. I can’t wait to try it out.

Spaghetti with lamb

Boil 2 12 oz. packages of spaghetti until it gets tender, strain and leave aside.

In another pot, brown chunks of lamb with butter and diced onions (to taste, I guess) then add water and salt and let boil until the meat is done.

Add to the meat and cook until it’s thickened:

2 cans of tomato paste

pepper

allspice

cinnamon

Then, in a large pan, add the soup and the spaghetti and put in the oven at 500 degrees for 15-20 minutes until it gets golden brown (almost burnt) and crisp on the surface.