Orecchiette with Za’atar Lamb Ragu and Smoked Harissa Chickpeas

Explore North African ingredients za’atar and harissa in this aromatic lamb sauce. They’re a culinary cousin of southern Italian flavors.

4 pounds Barilla Collezione Orecchiette
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 pounds plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled, halved
4 small onions, diced
12 cloves garlic, minced
4 pounds ground lamb
1 quart dry red wine
4 cups sundried tomatoes, rehydrated
1/2 cup za'atar
red pepper flakes
2 cups grated romano cheese
4 cups smoked harissa chickpeas, crushed
  1. Cook the Barilla pasta for half the time indicated on the package. Drain pasta and drizzle with some olive oil to prevent from sticking. Place pasta flat on sheet trays or hotel pans and cool in a blast chiller. Alternatively, cool it down in a walk-in cooler. Store in zip lock bags or sealed plastic container; refrigerate and use within several hours.
  2. Toss the plum tomatoes with 1/2 cup oil and season with salt. Spread on a sheet pan and roast at 425 degrees until well caramelized. Remove and cool.
  3. In a pot, saute onion and garlic with remaining 1/4 cup oil until translucent. Add lamb and saute until browned. Deglaze with the wine and let it reduce. Stir in the roasted tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, and za’atar and cover with water. Season with pepper flakes and simmer until flavorful, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

For each serving, to order:

  1. Reheat 1 cup pasta in simmering water. Drain and add to a pan with lamb sauce.
  2. Fold in 1 tablespoon cheese and plate.
  3. Garnish with more cheese and 2 to 3 tablespoons chickpeas.