Love and Olive Oil

Multi-Grain Pasta with Lamb and Butternut Squash

Multi-Grain Pasta with Lamb and Butternut Squash

Our cupcakes may be vegan, but we’re not vegan in any sense of the word. We’re not even vegetarians. We love our bacon as much as the next person.

But we’re not big meat eaters either.

For us, meat is an accent. A once or twice a week thing.

While it’s primarily budgetary (eating meat every night of the week isn’t cheap), we usually feel that meat just isn’t necessary. Some of our best and most memorable meals have been vegetarian ones.

What we have discovered, and is very apparent with this dish, is that if there is meat, it doesn’t need to be front and center. A hunk of steak, for example; which is why we rarely eat such things.

This delicious and unique pasta dish uses only 8 oz of ground lamb. Probably $3 worth, even at pricey Whole Foods. But mixed in to a robust pasta with butternut squash, cilantro, and nutty cheese, that $3 worth of meat does more flavor-wise than a $20 hunk of lamb could ever do. Spread the love around, I say.

Multi-Grain Pasta with Lamb and Butternut Squash

I shouldn’t tout this as a budget friendly dish, however, since the special fancy schmancy cheese (also found at Whole Foods), was $9 for a small 6oz. block. Which made Taylor cringe because he could have bought a 6-pack of really good beer for that price. Sorry dear, not this week. Kasseri cheese, as we discovered, is like a mild version of an aged pecorino – it’s very nutty in flavor and melts beautifully atop the hot pasta. If you can find it, great, it makes a delightful accent to this dish. But if you can’t, parmesan or pecorino would work just fine.

I should also note that we’re the type who usually substitute bleached, processed pasta when a recipe calls for whole wheat or multi-grain. (Yes, I admit it. We’re also the type of people who add the naughty things back to lightened recipes, shame on us). But in this case we stuck with the recipe. The sauce, more of a stew than a traditional pasta sauce, is hearty and heavy enough to support the nutty flavor and thicker texture of whole grain pasta. Would I use the stuff with a delicate butter sauce? Never. But in this case, the use of whole grain is entirely justified. Give it a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

Multi-Grain Pasta with Lamb, Butternut Squash, and Kasseri Cheese

Makes 4-6 servings. Recipe from Epicurious.

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1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (4 to 5 cups)
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces ground lamb
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes with added puree (from 28-ounce can)
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
8 ounces multi-grain penne pasta
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1/2 cup grated kasseri cheese, divided (substitute a mild parmesan or pecorino if you cannot find kasseri)


Preheat oven to 450°. Toss squash with 11/2 tablespoons oil in large bowl. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Transfer squash to large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender and brown around edges, using metal spatula to turn occasionally, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb and onions; sauté until lamb browns and onions soften, 7 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and next 3 ingredients; stir 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, then broth and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in squash. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Add lamb mixture, half of cilantro, and half of cheese; toss. Add reserved cooking liquid by 1/3 cupfuls to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta to bowl. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro and cheese.

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  1. Made this for supper tonight. It’s absolutely fabulous. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Hi, I’ve been following your blog for some time now. I admired it very much and I even have you on my blog roll. Anyway, the pt of this is to let you know that I made your dish above and it was all that and more. Very delicious and very healthy. Thank you for sharing and the variety.

  3. I’ve just recently discovered your site through and my oh my, I’ve been missing out!!

    I tried out this lovely dish last night. I used lean ground beef as I could only find frozen ground lamb (and was too impatient to wait for it to thaw out). Loved this dish, the butternut squash was delicious – would definitely make it again :)

  4. I am with you. Meat is nice, but it is not necessary. Especially in pasta dishes. Plus it is good on the wallet to lay off the meat. But it is a nice treat, and I be the lamb was a tasty touch in this pasta dish. I need to experiment with butternut squash more often, so thanks for this idea!

  5. haha! I also add the “unhealthy’ things back into a recipe! I completely agree with you – a dish of pasta should have a perfect balance between noodle and sauce. Too much meat and one would ruin the noodle!

  6. We’ve been loving squash with pasta lately! Sounds like a great supper (or leftover lunch!)

  7. I have never used ground lamb before – this recipe looks like such a taste-explosion – fabulous.
    :-) Mandy

  8. So glad I’m not the only one who adds the naughty things back into lightened recipes! This looks great and I have some lamb in the freezer and a squash on the counter. Coincidentally, I have not yet made our weekly mean plan. :) Thanks for an idea!

  9. Well, me too. We only eat a little meat three times a week and then it is free range Colorado chicken or lamb. Even if we BBQ, it is lamb sirloin chops. The squash makes your dish so beautiful.

  10. For us, these flavors are quite welcome in our kitchen, often showcased. Though for as much as we love lamb, it’s hard to find here, which then makes it even more expensive, so we usually turn to beef. Kasseri (delicious!) is a great addition here — will have to look for that when we have a chance to visit a bigger city.



  11. Hi, was surfing the net for some best food blogs and landed into urs…..believe me seeing your blog i truely know why u r the best…..I just loved it

  12. that looks absolutely delicious. i am not a huge fan of lamb but the butternut squash looks incredible.

  13. This looks like a great recipe! I don’t think I’ve ever had lamb in pasta before–I’ll definitely be trying it. We usually substitute whole grain pasta for the regular stuff too…the texture of that healthy stuff always throws me off!

  14. I often substitute normal pasta for whole wheat as well. I try to be healthy but sometimes really can’t get past the difference in flavor and texture! This sounds perfect for a weeknight meal. Delicious.

  15. yum — i love the sweetness of butternut squash mixed with things like pasta or in risotto…yum.

  16. What a great dish. I purchase my lamb form a local farmer. Our Whole Food only sells imported lamb. I made a very similar pasta dish with chorizo and butternut squash. Thanks for the new idea to use lamb. I will try it.

  17. Wow, thanks for this recipe. We get a lot of ground meat through our CSA, and I’m always looking for new ideas on how to cook it. We also almost never use whole wheat pasta, but I know I need to find ways to incorporate it into my diet a little more. I will definitely be trying this.

  18. I’ve never tried lamb but this looks wonderful!

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