"Greek" Lamb with Orzo

A filling—and exciting—lamb dinner that goes from stove to the table in under an hour. The process is straightforward, but this fragrant, saucy dish doesn't taste that way when it's finished; in terms of eating and cooking, it's a win-win. And you only have to dirty two pots!
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr
  • Active: 40 min
  • Yield: 8 servings
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Ingredients

1 pound ground lamb

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

6 garlic cloves, sliced thinly

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

28 ounces can whole tomatoes, drained and crushed with your hands

14 ounces can chopped/diced tomatoes

5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped

1 pound orzo pasta

2 cups chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped

1/2 cup crumbled feta

Directions

  1. In a good sized Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until it is shimmering. Add the lamb and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Cook, stirring to break it apart, until it is nicely browned. Remove the lamb with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate, reserving 2 tablespoons of the fat.
  2. Return the pot to the stovetop and add olive oil and the onion (still over medium-high). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic. Stir in the spices (cinnamon, oregano, cumin, coriander, and red pepper)and cook until they start smelling toasted and fragrant (1 to 2 minutes). Stir in the whole tomatoes, crushed by hand. Cook the crushed tomatoes in the spices, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Then, add the can of diced tomatoes and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the cooked lamb back to the pot, give it a good stir, then cover the pot and leave it to cook, stirring from time to time, for 20 minutes. At this point, stir in the fresh spinach and cook just a couple more minutes until the spinach is wilted. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste (keeping in mind you'll be sprinkling a touch of feta and olives on, which will add to the saltiness). While the lamb and tomatoes are simmering together and marrying their flavors, bring a large pot of well-salted water (it should taste like sea water) to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, about 7 or 8 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  4. Drain the orzo. Toss the orzo with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, and all of the parsley, adding a bit of pasta water at a time, if you feel it needs additional liquid.Spread the orzo out on an enormous serving platter. Spoon the lamb and sauce all over the top, then sprinkle with the feta and chopped olives. A good red wine, on the dry side, is a highly recommended companion here.