Lamb refers to any cut of meat from a sheep that is approximately less than 12 months old. It has a distinctive, earthy taste compared to beef or pork. Lamb is thought to pair well with the flavors of oregano, mint, cinnamon, and garlic and is featured in Indian, African, and Mediterranean cuisines. One possible way to utilize the meat is in a lamb casserole. "Casserole" is a broad culinary term that refers to any combination of ingredients, particularly protein, starch, and vegetables, that are cooked and served together in one dish.
Pastitsio is a type of lamb casserole that is common in Greek cooking. It is similar to the baked pasta dishes of Italian cuisine, particularly lasagna, but uses ground lamb in place of the sausage or ground beef. Pastitsio combines ground lamb with a tomato-based sauce that is seasoned with oregano and cinnamon, cooked penne or other tubular pasta, and béchamel sauce. Béchamel sauce is a creamy white sauce made by cooking together flour and butter and whisking in heavy cream or milk. The casserole is traditionally topped with a grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan, before baking.
Another type of lamb casserole in Mediterranean cuisine is moussaka. Mousakka is a casserole similar to pastitsio, but consists of slices of eggplant, rather than pasta, layered between a ground lamb filling. The dish is also topped with béchamel sauce and grated hard cheese before being baked.
The lamb casseroles that are prepared in Indian and African cuisines often use boneless pieces of lamb meat that have been marinated with olive oil and seasonings, such as cumin, coriander, and chili sauce or curry paste, which contains ground chili peppers and other dry seasonings mixed with liquid to form a paste. These types of recipes typically slow cook the lamb over low heat until it becomes tender, and then mix the meat and its accumulated cooking juices with the preferred grain, such as rice or couscous. Due to the spicy nature of the marinating ingredients, a lamb casserole made with a spicy marinade is often served with a mint and yogurt-based sauce to cool it down.
Due to the distinctive flavor of lamb, some casserole recipes may recommend mixing the lamb with another type of meat to soften the flavor. The substitution tends to be most common in recipes utilizing ground lamb, because the texture is more interchangeable with other meats. Ground beef is often the primary alternative, although ground pork or turkey may also be substituted for some of the lamb in certain recipes.