Recipe: Lamburger Helper

Recipe: Lamburger Helper

Our Houston chef friend Chris Shepherd’s cookbook, Cook Like a Local, is inspired by the many local cuisines of his adopted city. A favorite recipe from it, Chris’s tried-and-true “Lamburger Helper,” makes for a great pairing with our own favorite—and very local—Miner wine, The Oracle 2019, produced from two legendary Napa Valley vineyards, Stagecoach and Volker Eisele.


For the sauce

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • ¼ cup small-diced white onion
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons sambal oelek
  • 1 tablespoon Crystal hot sauce
  • cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the pasta

  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound ground lamb (or substitute ground beef)
  • ½ cup diced white onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ cup diced tomato
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)


  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Cheese Sauce

  • In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
  • Add the garlic and onion and sprinkle the flour over.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes, or until the onion and garlic smell fragrant and the flour evenly coats the vegetables.
  • Slowly whisk in the heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Add the sambal and hot sauce and gently simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Slowly whisk in the cheese, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Pasta + Lamb Mixture

  • Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat and add 3 tablespoons of salt.
  • Add the pasta, and cook until just under al dente, about 9 minutes, or a few minutes under what the package directions tell you.
  • Drain the pasta, and run it under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  • Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering-hot.
  • Add the lamb, spread it out to cover the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 6 minutes.
  • Drain almost all of the grease from the pan and discard. Stir in the onion and garlic, and continue cooking for 2 minutes, until slightly softened.
  • Add the chile powder, cumin, crushed red pepper, and oregano, and cook for 3 minutes, until very aromatic.
  • Add the tomato and wine and let simmer, stirring frequently so nothing sticks, until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
  • Toss the pasta and lamb mixture together in a large bowl.
  • Fold in the cheese sauce and 1 cup of the cheddar.
  • Pour the mixture into a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish or a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, and top with the remaining ½-cup cheddar and the cherry tomatoes.
  • Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown.
  • Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving big spoonfuls to all your friends.

Original recipe courtesy of Texas Monthly.

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