Pixie of You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato pointed out this glaring omission to me when she searched my blog unsuccessfully for the elusive recipe. Mea culpa. I’m sure I’ve made pastitsio during my blog’s existence but she was right…no Pastitsio recipe to be found.
Pastitsio is a Greek classic. It is simply an oven baked pasta with a meat sauce and Bechamel Sauce. Pastitstio is the Greek form of the Italian word pasticcio, which means hodgepodge (among other things).
I’ve heard many non-Greeks talk of pastistio as if it were some mythological dish beyond the reach of mere mortals, only to be tasted at the hands of the Greek neighbor or at the Greek restaurant in town.
Relax kiddies, Pete’s gonna break it down for ya. There are three simple components to pastitsio:
- Pasta – the classic uses Bucatini, a thick, spaghetti-like pasta that’s hollow (penne works fine too).
- Meat Sauce – a classic Bolognese with some allspice that’s finished with a pinch of cinnamon (essential for pastitsio)
- Bechamel Sauce – a roux of butter, flour, milk, eggs, cheese and some nutmeg.
1 kg. of lean ground beef
3 medium onions, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 can crushed plum tomatoes
1/4 cup dry white wine
2-3 allspice berries
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
1 package of Bucatini pasta (500gr)
- In a large skillet, add your olive oil and start sauteing your onions, garlic and bay leaves under medium-low heat, for about 12-15 minutes for them to soften and be translucent.
- Add your ground beef, garlic, turn heat to high and brown your meat. Strain off any excess fat.
- Add your tomato paste and wine and simmer until most of the wine has been absorbed.
- Add your crushed tomatoes, oregano and bring to a boil. Now reduce to a simmer until the meat sauce has become thick.
- Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, remove your allspice and bay leaves. Reserve.
- Get a large pot of water boiling for your pasta. Upon boiling, generously salt your water and cook the pasta for approx. 10 minutes.
- Strain the pasta and reserve.
1 stick of butter
1 cup of all-purpose flour
8 cups of whole milk (warm)
4 eggs (room temp.), beated
1 cup grated Vlahotyri Cheese (or Grano Padano)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Kefalotyri cheese (or Romano) for topping
- In a large saucepan, add your butter to medium heat and when it’s melted add the flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes or until the flour has turned a light brown.
- Grab a whisk and pour in a steady stream of milk into your roux. If you still get some lumps, use a potato masher to break them up.
- Go back to stirring with your wooden spoon and bring the Bechamel up to a boil (medium heat).
- Continue stirring until your Bechamel has become thick or until the sauce coats the back of the spoon.
- Take the Bechamel Sauce off the heat and pour a steady stream of the beated eggs into the mixture. Add the grated Vlahotyri, nutmeg and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Cover and reserve.
- Pre-heat your oven to 375F, middle rack
- Start assembly of the pastitsio in a rectangular roasting pan
- Mix about 1 ladle of Bechamel Sauce into the reserved meat sauce.
- Mix about 3 ladles of Bechamel Sauce into the reserved pasta. (Steps 3 & 4 will ensure your pastitsio stays moist as a leftover)
- Pour enough Bechamel Sauce to cover bottom surface area of the roasting pan.
- Spread half of your pasta over the bottom layer of Bechamel Sauce.
- Pour all of your meat sauce over your first layer of pasta.
- Spread your second layer of pasta over the meat sauce.
- Pour the remainder of the Bechamel Sauce over second (and last) layer of pasta and smooth out the sauce to make it even.
- Spread grated Kefalotyri over the Bechamel Sauce and place into a pre-heated 375F oven for 45-60 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
- Take your Pastitsio out of the oven and allow to rest for 30-45 minutes before serving.
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