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Slicked and Spicy Lamb Noodles

Two bowls of spicy cumin lamb noodles topped with mint
Photograph by Isa Zapata, Food Styling by Liberty Fennell, Prop Styling by Suzie Myers

Inspired by Xi’an Famous Foods’ popular cumin lamb noodles, this weeknight pasta is all about creating deep flavor in as little time as possible. As in the classic Northern Chinese dish, we deploy a similarly heavy hand of cumin, but complement it here with frizzled shallots and caramelized tomato paste for an added touch of sweetness. To make things extra fast, we use ground lamb and store-bought pappardelle, but any wide, long, flat pasta or other noodle will cling well to the spiced oil and saucy meat. If you like, top the whole thing with a little extra fresh mint to balance out the richness of the dish.

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What you’ll need


4–6 servings


Tbsp. cumin seeds


cup extra-virgin olive oil


large shallots, thinly sliced

Kosher salt


Tbsp. double-concentrated tomato paste


Tbsp. smoked paprika


tsp. crushed red pepper flakes


lb. ground lamb


lb. pappardelle or other wide noodle


cup coarsely chopped mint, plus more for serving


A mortar and pestle or a spice mill


  1. Step 1

    Coarsely grind 2 Tbsp. cumin seeds in mortar and pestle or spice mill. Set aside. 

    Step 2

    Heat ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high. Add 3 large shallots, thinly sliced, and season with kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are softened and beginning to brown around the edges, 6–9 minutes. Add 2 Tbsp. double-concentrated tomato paste and stir to coat shallots. Cook, stirring often, until paste is darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika, 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, and reserved cumin seeds. Cook, stirring, until spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1 lb. ground lamb and break up into small pieces with a wooden spoon; season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lamb is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and keep warm. 

    Step 3

    Cook 1 lb. pappardelle or other wide noodle in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot off heat. 

    Step 4

    Increase heat under lamb to medium and add 1 cup pasta cooking liquid; stir to combine. Add half of lamb and ½ cup coarsely chopped mint to pasta; cook over medium-low heat, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed to loosen, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Taste and season with more salt if needed.

    Step 5

    Divide pasta among bowls; top with remaining lamb in skillet, then with more mint. 

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  • Had high hopes for this recipe but found it to be pretty one-note (CUMIN!). Xi'an Famous Foods ships noodle kits so I'll stick with the *real* spicy cumin lamb noodles in the future.

    • Kristin

    • Albany, NY

    • 12/14/2022

  • Can't wait to give this recipe a whirl. I'd probably cut down on the pasta and olive oil quantities and go for chili crisp or a fresh sliced chili for heat instead of the chili flakes, but this sounds great.

    • babybokchoy

    • Montreal, QC

    • 11/1/2022

  • Over the top! Even better the next day. I did not change a thing-the heavily seasoned olive oil is part of the sauce-the "slicked." Plan to put this one one repeat!!

    • Gutsybluequeen

    • midwest

    • 10/31/2022

  • I loved this recipe. I did use ground cumin and decreased the amount a bit. Next time I would decrease the amount of pasta. Maybe 3/4 pound. Otherwise I not change at all. Definitely will make this again.

    • MarieH

    • Pittsburgh

    • 10/31/2022

  • Could you use chicken or beef in this recipe?

    • Anonymous


    • 10/30/2022

  • ADD 1/2 of lamb to noodels. Do what with the resrt???

    • Anonymous

    • 10/28/2022

  • Easy and great dish for a quick weekday meal! Kids loved it! I added some diced jalapeños for a little extra kick.

    • Rueben

    • Mesa, AZ

    • 10/17/2022

  • made this tonight and the flavor was spot on! loved everything about it except that my sauce was a little light on color so it didnt have the pop of deep red i was hoping for. i did brown it i swear. will either add more tomato paste next time or adjust the amount of pasta water used. also good with a dollop of greek yogurt on top mixed in at the end.

    • JaredMykel

    • Sacramento, CA

    • 10/14/2022

  • Flavor is great but came out quite greasy. Could probably cut the olive oil in half.

    • Anonymous

    • Durham, NC

    • 10/14/2022

  • Punkingee…read the last paragraph of the recipe for directions

    • Crmcr

    • Columbus OH

    • 10/11/2022

  • We are lamb, spice, and pasta people so I can't wait to fix this!

    • KnownforGreek !

    • 10/10/2022

  • @punkingee you distribute the remaining lamb in the bowls before serving.

    • Anonymous

    • 10/9/2022

  • It's not clear why the recipe uses only ½ the lamb, or am I missing something?

    • punkingee

    • california

    • 10/9/2022

  • Could I use ground cumin from a bottle? If so, how much?

    • Nic Nosh

    • SC

    • 10/9/2022

  • Try Urfa in stead of chilli flakes

    • johnny

    • ontario

    • 10/7/2022