Pastitsio Gialantzi

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I came up with the name of this riff on Pastitsio last week and I rather like the title of it too…”Pastitsio Gialantzi”. Pastitsio is a favourtite Greek dish made by arranging one layer of tubular pasta followed by a ground meat mixture and then sandwiched with another layer of pasta. A deep dish baking dish is needed as the Pastitsio isn’t complete without the crowning glory of a Bechamel cream sauce on top. It’s baked until golden and square portions are served.

The Gialanzti part of the dish rolls out like this: in Turkish, the world ‘gialantzi’ refers to something/someone false, a liar and by extension ficticious and “faux”. Another popular dish in Greek (and Turkish) cuisine are Dolmades Gialantzi – giving the name for it’s faux-filling. The usual Dolmades are meat & rice filled and Gialantzi is the meatless version.

Today I’m sharing a Pastitsio dish that contains no meat whatsoever but it’s every bit as satisfying as the classic meat version. The vegetable choice here is mushrooms, often a meaty alternative and one that’s filling, delicious and nutritious. To add more nutrition (and flavour) I’ve also incorporated some asparagus into the mix. It’s Spring time and nothing could represent the arrival of Spring more than the appearance of asparagus at your local farmer’s market. If asparagus are not available (or not in season), you could replace them with green beans.

This dish is in no way a time-saver – Pastistio takes some time but it’s worth the effort and in this case, you have a worthy vegetarian dish that will satiate even then most avid carnivores!

Pastitsio Gialantzi (Παστιτσιο Γιαλαντζι)

(makes 8 large pieces)

13″ X 8″ deep baking dish

half (250 gr.) of 500 gr. package of Misko no.2 pasta (or hollow bucatini)*

3 bunches of fresh asparagus, woody parts trimmed (uncooked)

Mushroom Sauce

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion (1 cup) diced

4-5 cloves of garlic, minced

1 carrot, peeled and passed through a box grater

1 stalk of celery, finely diced

2-3 bay leaves

3 cups of assorted mushrooms, chopped

1/4 cup dried Porcini mushrooms

2 cups hot water

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg

2 cups of crushed (canned) plum tomatoes

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp. dried Greek oregano

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

coarse sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Bechamel Sauce

1/2 stick of unsalted butter
1/2  cup of all-purpose flour
5 cups of whole milk (warm)
3 eggs (room temp.), beaten
1/2 cup grated Kefalotyri (Romano cheese)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2  tsp. grated nutmeg

1/2 cup grated Kefalotyri cheese (or Romano) for topping

  1. Place a large skillet on your stove-top over medium-high heat and add the olive oil, onions, garlic, carrot, celery, mushrooms and bay leaves and saute for 8-10 minutes while stirring. Season with some sea salt and fresh ground pepper and reduce the heat to medium and continue to simmer the vegetables for another 5 minutes or until almost all the liquid has cooked off.
  2. In the meantime, to rehydrate your dried mushrooms, boil 2 cups water and place in a bowl with your dried mushrooms and cover. Allow to steep for 10 minutes and pour the mushroom stock through a fine mesh strainer and chop and add the re-hydrated mushrooms along with the wine, grated nutmeg and bring to a simmer and reduce the liquid to half. Add some more salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Now add the crushed plum tomatoes, thyme leaves and bring back to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thick (about 30 minutes). Adjust seasoning once again with salt and pepper, stir in the dried oregano and remove the bay leaves. Reserve.
  4. In the meantime, place a large pot of water on your stove-top and bring to a boil. Add a good amount of salt and when the water returns to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions. Strain, and toss in a bowl with some olive oil (or butter) to prevent the pasta from clumping. Reserve.
  5. In a medium pot, add your butter over 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).
  6. 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 beaten eggs into the mixture. Add half the grated Kefalotyri, nutmeg and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Place a kitchen towel over the pot and cover with the lid and reserve (prevents condensation from diluting your Bechamel). Pre-heat your oven to 375 F, middle rack.
  7. To assemble your Pastitsio, lightly grease your deep baking vessel and lay half of your pasta down to make the initial bedding. Now spread half of your asparagus over the pasta then evenly pour the mushroom sauce over the asparagus followed by the remaining half of asparagus. Now add the remaining pasta over the asparagus and pour the Bechamel sauce on top and spread out evenly. Sprinkle the remaining grated Kefalotyri cheese and place in your pre-heated oven (middle rack) for about 45 minutes or until top is golden-brown. Serve with a Skouras “St. George” red.

* Pastitsio requires a hollow pasta to be used. Misko brand makes “pastitisio no.2”, a hollow thick spaghetti that resembles bucatini. You may also use penne pasta.


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© 2007-2011 Peter Minakis

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Peter Minakis

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14 Comments for “Pastitsio Gialantzi”



Oh my… Heaven!
I have a special place in my heart for Pastistio. Thank you for sharing this recipe. I’m going to give it a try!


Το ίδιο φαγητό φτιάξαμε σήμερα! Μόνο εγώ αντί μανιτάρια έβαλα μελιτζάνες στη σάλτσα και άλλαξα λίγο τα μυρωδικά :-)


Gialantzi or not, this sounds amazing! Pastitsio has always fascinated me, but I’ve been looking for a vegetarian version. The mushrooms and asparagus here sound perfect.


Even though I am stuffed from our own Mother’s Day celebration, I actually salivated looking at this. I’m always in awe by the precision used in ‘arranging’ the pasta in this dish.


Yum! Love these vegetarian versions! In Lebanese cuisine, too, all the dishes that have no meat are called either “liar” or ” cunning” as in ” sly”, to mean this is a dish to fool you into thinking it is with meat but there is none in it. Kazzabeh is the word in Arabic or heeleh (meaning tricky).


Great idea to use the mushrooms in place of the meat, Peter. Looks like a delicious version of pastitsio – you can make it for me any time. :)


That is a dish I adore! Pastitsio is so comforting and delicious. I’ve never had the vegetarian version, though.




Τι νόστιμο που φαίνεται το “γιαλαντζί” παστίτσιο σου Peter!!!
Καλή βδομάδα εύχομαι, πολλά φιλιά!


Oh I think I would love this asparagus mushroom version even better than the meat version! I have got to try this! How gorgeous! Delicious, Peter, just delicious!