This recipe isn’t an easy one. However, the work is soooo worth it. This recipe is a staple in any Greek household and I have found that it gets better every time I make it. My mother has always made it, especially for holiday meals!!
Pastitsio has three(!!) layers that have to be made in three different pans. It’s definitely a pain…but the pain is worth it. The three layers are ground beef (you can use ground lamb if you’re REALLY Greek), a béchamel sauce, and a cheesy-eggy-pasta.
I made this the other day for dinner guests. I knew I wouldn’t have time to make it on the night of the dinner, so I made it the night before and it sat in the fridge overnight. I don’t know if this helped the flavors marry together more, but it was incredible. The guests loved it, too 🙂
So, ready to go along with me and create pastitsio??
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1.5 lb. ground beef (or lamb if you’re really into that — I love lamb, but in moderation)
- 1 medium onion, finely minced
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 pinch each of salt & pepper
- 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. sugar
- pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
- 8 oz. red wine
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 c. chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 3/4c. all-purpose flour
- 3.5 c. milk, brought to room temperature
- 2 egg yolks
- 3/4 c. Parmesan cheese (I used a Parmesan and Romano blend)
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- pinches of salt and pepper
- 1 lb. tubular pasta (I used ziti without lines)
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 14 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Preheat your oven to 375 degees. 🙂
Step #1 — Meat Sauce
Because it cooks the longest, start with the meat sauce. Warm the 1/4 c. olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook them for a few minutes until they start to soften. I used red onion but use whatever kind you want!! Mix in the clove of garlic and tomato paste. After a minute, add in the ground beef, chopping it up with a wooden spoon as you go. Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper at this point. Once the ground beef has lost its pink color, Pour in the red wine and wait for some of the liquid to evaporate. Pour yourself a glass, too. 🙂
Add the crushed tomatoes, optional crushed red pepper, sugar, cinnamon, clove, and bay leaf. The sugar is a great way to cut through some of the acidity of the tomatoes and the wine. I didn’t have any whole cloves, but traditionally you should try to use whole cloves if you can. Bring this marvelous mixture to a boil and then lower the heat. Allow it to simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. Once it is removed from the heat, stir in some chopped parsley for color. Remove the cinnamon stick and the bay leaf. If you used whole cloves, remove those now, too.
Step #2 — Béchamel
Use a large pan to melt the butter. Make sure it doesn’t burn!! I’d do this over low-medium heat. Whisk in the flour at this point and continue to whisk it all together for a few minutes, cooking off some of that flour taste. Slowly whisk in the milk in a steady stream. The whisk really helps prevent lumps from forming. Allow it to thicken for a moment and then remove it from the heat. Stir in the egg yolks, cheese, and nutmeg.
Season with salt and pepper, too. Whisk briskly to avoid the eggs scrambling.
Step #3 — Pasta
Bring water to boil and pour in the pasta. Cook it 2-3 minutes under al dente. You are going to cook this in the oven and you don’t want the pasta to turn to mush. Once the pasta is done, stir in the the beaten egg and the feta cheese. This kicked-up pasta will serve as the base to your pastitsio.
~ Stir 1/4 of the béchamel sauce into the meat sauce. It creates the most gorgeous color 🙂
~ Grease a large lasagna pan. I used some olive oil spray.
~ Pour the pasta into the bottom of the pan. Press it into all of the sides and corners. You don’t want to miss any of this. Trust me.
Pour the meat sauce over the pasta…
Pour the béchamel sauce over that. Smile <3
~ Bake it in the 375 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown. I sprinkled some grated Parmesan and Romano cheese on top once it came out of the oven. Allow it to rest for a few minutes before you cut into it.
~ Slice into this dream and enjoy!! We ate it with a side salad and some fresh bread from La Cascia’s Bakery in Medford. Perfect accompaniment 🙂
There’s some traditional Greek cooking for ya — Mom tried some and she was proud!!! 🙂 🙂