Baked Ziti with Mediterranean Ragù

raguI came across this recipe in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago and clipped it out to make immediately. I took great pleasure from actually purchasing a newspaper to read on an airplane, reading it cover to cover, saving the food section, taking the page I needed to the grocery store and unfolding the unwieldy newsprint on a stack of oranges to consult the recipe. It was sooooo last century of me but a nice break from my iPhone grocery lists that so often lead me astray.

I love a great ragù but whenever I’ve tried to make one at home I end with something either too watery, too spicy or too meaty. I liked the idea of mixing the Mediterranean flavors of a beef kabob with the Italian flavors of a lamb ragù that chef Jose Centeno employed for this recipe. However, what I didn’t like was the extremely long ingredients list. I cut out the celery because I didn’t feel like spending $3.99 on a bunch of organic celery for one single stalk. I found that I needed almost twice as much olive oil as chef Centeno suggested. I upped the beef and garlic requirement by half and used real Sherry instead of sherry vinegar and added a tablespoon of red wine vinegar. And I used a whole cup of cheese because why not.

This is a meal to make for company. The ingredients list is long and will cost you a pretty penny.


This recipe was enough for generous portions for four for dinner, plus leftovers for me and my lucky roommates for lunch the next day. I think giving the ragu a day in the fridge to develop is a good idea. Just make the meat sauce the night before, store it in the fridge and then add freshly cooked pasta, herbs and cheese and bake.


Mediterranean Ragù Recipe

Adapted from Jose Centeno

Serves 8


1 box ziti or penne pasta (16 oz.)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 small bulb fennel, diced
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Sherry
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 cup French feta, crumbled
1 cup coarsely grated mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmesan, plus extra 1/2 cup to serve
15 basil leaves, thinly sliced
15 mint leaves, thinly sliced


1. In a large skillet or cast-iron pot (Dutch oven) heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the lamb, beef, onions, garlic, carrots and fennel and cook for 10 minutes until meat is cooked through. Pour off excess liquid in the pan.
2. Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large (probably the largest pot you have) pot of boiling water. Drain pasta and make sure to reserve 1 cup of cooking water. I like to sick a mason jar in the sink to catch the water as I drain the pasta in a strainer.
3. Stir in the tomatoes with juices, chili flakes, oregano, salt, cumin and cinnamon. Turn down heat to a simmer, add Sherry and red wine vinegar and cook for about 25 minutes so that the vegetables soften.
4. Preheat the broiler in your oven. Add the cooked pasta and 1 cup reserved cooking water to the sauce pot until mixed well, turn heat off. Mix the feta, mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmesan together in a small bowl. Add half of it to the pasta mixture, along with the chopped basil and mint leaves (reserve a small handful to garnish) stir and transfer to a shallow glass baking dish (I used a 13×15 glass Pyrex but a roasting pan lined with parchment paper would work well). Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and broil for 3 minutes, rotate and broil for another three minutes as cheese starts to burn. Divide onto plates and sprinkle reserved mint and basil and Parmesan on top.

Like this? Try one of my other favorite pasta recipes…

Papardelle with Lamb Meatballs

Lemon Ricotta Pasta

Cod Roe Pasta

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