Pastitsio, Deconstructed (παστίτσιο)


It has been brought to my attention that I have yet to write, blog, post about a popular Greek dish called Pastitsio.

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:

  1. Pasta – the classic uses Bucatini, a thick, spaghetti-like pasta that’s hollow (penne works fine too).
  2. Meat Sauce – a classic Bolognese with some allspice that’s finished with a pinch of cinnamon (essential for pastitsio)
  3. Bechamel Sauce – a roux of butter, flour, milk, eggs, cheese and some nutmeg.

See, that’s all pastitsio is, let’s pull it together…Ba-by!

Pastitsio (παστίτσιο)

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)

Meat Sauce

  1. 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.
  2. Add your ground beef, garlic, turn heat to high and brown your meat. Strain off any excess fat.
  3. Add your tomato paste and wine and simmer until most of the wine has been absorbed.
  4. Add your crushed tomatoes, oregano and bring to a boil. Now reduce to a simmer until the meat sauce has become thick.
  5. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, remove your allspice and bay leaves. Reserve.
  6. Get a large pot of water boiling for your pasta. Upon boiling, generously salt your water and cook the pasta for approx. 10 minutes.
  7. Strain the pasta and reserve.

Bechamel Sauce

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Go back to stirring with your wooden spoon and bring the Bechamel up to a boil (medium heat).
  4. Continue stirring until your Bechamel has become thick or until the sauce coats the back of the spoon.
  5. 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.
  6. Cover and reserve.

Assembly

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 375F, middle rack
  2. Start assembly of the pastitsio in a rectangular roasting pan
  3. Mix about 1 ladle of Bechamel Sauce into the reserved meat sauce.
  4. Mix about 3 ladles of Bechamel Sauce into the reserved pasta. (Steps 3 & 4 will ensure your pastitsio stays moist as a leftover)
  5. Pour enough Bechamel Sauce to cover bottom surface area of the roasting pan.
  6. Spread half of your pasta over the bottom layer of Bechamel Sauce.
  7. Pour all of your meat sauce over your first layer of pasta.
  8. Spread your second layer of pasta over the meat sauce.
  9. Pour the remainder of the Bechamel Sauce over second (and last) layer of pasta and smooth out the sauce to make it even.
  10. 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.
  11. Take your Pastitsio out of the oven and allow to rest for 30-45 minutes before serving.

© 2008 – 2013,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

26 Comments for “Pastitsio, Deconstructed (παστίτσιο)”

Peter G

says:

Peter you’ve done this dish justice. It’s one of my favourite Greek dishes because it alwas reminds me of childhood. Bravo a great job well done!

Ivy

says:

Great recipe Peter. I saw that Pixie had a minor problem with her pasticcio and I had e-mailed her my recipe. I make a lighter version of this very rich dish and it’s still very tasty.

Pixie

says:

Yours looks fabulous! I’m about to put my pastitsio up, but thought I’d take a look at your blog first, am glad I did so.

So, cinnamon is a key ingredient? Mine contained a cinnamon stick- followed a Rick Stein Recipe; wonder what your thoughts on his recipe will be.

Hope you get a kick out of my flat patitsio and ta for the mention!

Lore

says:

It looks soooo scrumptious! Just like a lasagna with a different kind of pasta… and oh boy do I like pasta in any shape!

aforkfulofspaghetti

says:

Wow! I haven’t had this in so long… since I was last in Greece, I suppose, which was – ahem – about 18 years ago…

I’ll have to give this a try – it’s the kind of thing I absolutely love. Luckily, I have some bucatini right here and ready to go…

Susan from Food Blogga

says:

I made bucatini with a creamy arugula and lemon sauce last weekend. I’ll be making bucatini again this weekend a la Peter the fabulous! That is comfort food at its best.

Elly

says:

Looks delicious Peter! It’s been several months since I’ve made pastitsio so I definitely need to make some again soon. My husband has been requesting it! Unfortunately, I can never find bucatini here, so I end up having to use something like ziti.

Emiline

says:

Thanks Pete! You rock.

This looks rich. Oh-so-rich and delicious.

Now that I’ve seen this on two different blogs, I must make it!

Thanks for the breakdown of the recipe.

Peter M

says:

Peter, thank you for your kind words.

Ivy, you call using ground pork lighter?

Pixie, I’ve given you my dissection of Rick Stein’s recipe, I think you know what I think of his version.

Lore, bucatini is used quite a bit in Greece.

Forkful, go for it, try it and I look forward to reading about the result.

Susan, I’d be honoured to see you make this dish.

Maryann, pastitsio no doubt has it’s Italian influences, grazie Italia!

Elly, a thin penne works fine when you’re in a pinch.

Emiline, which version will you make?;)

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen

says:

That looks absolutely FAB, Peter. It is true, it is one of those recipes that you can’t imagine making, like Moussaka, which I did make and it was great fun! So maybe it is time to move on to this!

Heather

says:

That dish looks like was touched by the hands of a Greek god! Meaty and creamy all at once…yummeh.

Randi

says:

peter, you’re the most prolific food blogger i know. i check the site frequently, but you post like there’s no tomorrow, I LOVE IT!

this looks great and i think i’ll try it this week with some buffalo meat to lighten up the fat content. anything with bechamel calls to me. thanks!

Kevin

says:

Bookmarked. This looks great. You can;t go wrong with pasta, meat sauce, bechamel sauce and golden brown cheese on top!

Katerina

says:

You SOO can’t go wrong with Bechamel. Ever.

I have posted your meme response.. I sort of cheated but I did get 5 things up :)

Núria

says:

Wow, first time I see these pasta noodles, the pictures look great, its like a thick tortilla but with pasta and beixamel…. mmmmmm que rico, Peter!

katiez

says:

Absolultely gorgeous! I wish I could get bucatini….
The first time I tasted it (in a Greek restaurant) I knew I loved that elusive taste, but it took awhile to figure out it was cinnamon (I think I finally asked)
Well done deconstruction!

Pam

says:

Oh my gosh, Peter, that looks so good! I’ve made a Weight Watchers version, which I liked, so I can’t even begin to imagine how good your’s is!

anna_mer

says:

I don’t often refer to recipies..I just go with the flow.. but sometimes..I forget steps and temperatures so thanks for posting this pastitsio recipie…I will refer to it in future :D

Pastitsio = food of love..the type that keeps on givin’

A~

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy

says:

I love Pastitsio. Actually, I love all kinds of Greek food! I hope you don’t mind, but I linked to your recipe in my latest post. I can’t wait to try it. It looks terrific!

Spryte

says:

I have very little experience with Greek cuisine, but keep seeing this dish pop up everywhere. It’s looks great and I can’t wait to try it!