Faith Kramer's Lamb Pita Casserole with Tahini Sauce (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Faith Kramer's Lamb Pita Casserole with Tahini Sauce (Photo/Faith Kramer)

This lamb pita casserole is ideal for Sukkot

Looking for the perfect meal to eat in your sukkah during Sukkot from Sept. 29 through Oct. 6? Start with this lamb pita casserole.

Served with a delicious tahini sauce, it’s a recipe that comes together fast, can be prepared in advance, and is tasty either hot out of the oven or at room temperature. Plus, since it is a “stuffed” dish, it is symbolic of Sukkot’s harvest themes of bounty and plentifulness.

It is a riff on arayes, meat-filled, grilled pitas common throughout the Middle East. The Lebanese version that inspired this dish combines that country’s signature spices with lamb and is served with tahini sauce for dipping. The casserole layers whole pitas with seasoned meat. It has a crisp flatbread top with soft and flavorful internal layers of pita transformed by baking with the lamb.

Serve with plenty of tahini sauce, and/or the optional garlic sauce, or garlic sauce with cucumbers.

If desired, substitute ground beef (17% to 23% fat) for half or all the lamb. If doubling, use two baking dishes rather than piling more into one dish.

Lamb Pita Casserole with Tahini Sauce

Serves 4

For casserole:

  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1 tsp. plus 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • ¾ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. plus ¼ tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. ground allspice or nutmeg
  • ⅛ tsp. cayenne
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 3 white-flour pita breads (8-inch rounds)

To serve:

  • ¼ tsp. ground sumac or paprika
  • 2 Tbs. chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbs. chopped green onions
  • ¼ cup chopped tomato
  • Tahini sauce (see below)
  • Garlic sauces (see below), optional

Have lamb at room temperature. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease with 1 tsp. oil inside of round baking, casserole or souffle dish that’s 8½ to 9 inches in diameter and at least 2½ inches deep.

In a large bowl, mix onion, garlic, parsley, cinnamon, ½ tsp. paprika, salt, pepper, cumin, allspice and cayenne. Mix in lamb. Mix in tomato paste.

Lay 1 pita on bottom of baking dish (trim to fit, as needed). Press half the lamb evenly on top, pressing it flat. Press a second pita on top. Press remaining lamb evenly on top. Top with third pita, pressing down firmly.

Stir ¼ tsp. paprika into 1 Tbs. olive oil. Brush top of pita. Bake 25 to 35 minutes until meat is cooked through and liquid in dish is bubbly (see notes), brushing top with seasoned oil every 5 to 10 minutes. (If top browns too quickly, cover dish with aluminum foil.) Remove from oven. Let rest 10 to 15 minutes until liquid is reabsorbed. Sprinkle with sumac (or paprika), parsley, green onion and tomato. Serve warm or at room temperature with tahini sauce (plus a garlic sauce, if desired).

Make ahead: Bake the recipe, and keep it in the dish. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature. Cover with foil and reheat in 350-degree oven.

Notes: To determine if meat is cooked, cut into a section (hide incision with garnishes later) or use an instant read thermometer (make sure the tip is in the meat). The USDA recommends cooking ground lamb and beef to 160 degrees.

Tahini sauce: Mix 1 tsp. minced garlic, ¼ tsp. salt, 1 Tbs. lemon juice and ¼ cup cold water. Stir in ½ cup tahini paste. Keep stirring, adding water by teaspoon, until sauce is smooth and pourable. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Use at room temperature, thinned with water if needed.

Garlic sauce or garlic-cucumber sauce: Using blender, process ½ cup garlic cloves, ⅓ cup olive oil, ⅓ cup lemon juice and ¼ tsp. salt, scraping down as needed, for several minutes until sauce is thick and smooth. Refrigerate up to 2 weeks. Stir before using at room temperature. If desired, stir in ½ cup of peeled, finely diced cucumber just before serving.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].