- Unsalted butter 6 tablespoons
- All-purpose flour 3/4 cup
- Whole Milk 1-quart, warmed until hot
- Salt 1 1/2 teaspoons • 1 kcal
- Eggs 3 large • 130 kcal
- Unsalted butter 4 tablespoons
- Onions 2 medium, chopped
- 90% lean ground beef 2 pounds
- Ground cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Water 1/2 cup
- tomato paste/puree 2 tablespoons
- ziti pasta 1 pound – if you can’t get ziti, use penne pasta instead
- Eggs 3 large, beaten • 130 kcal
- Salt 1 1/2 teaspoons • 1 kcal
- Kasseri or Kefalotiri cheese 12 to 16 ounces, grated, or the same amount of substitute cheese
Pastitsio is a favorite at the Greek dinner table, and is their version of lasagna. It has different layers of pasta tossed in egg, then cheese, then meat sauce, then more pasta and cheese, until finally a layer of creamy bechamel sauce tops it off.
The meat is seasoned with a hint of cinnamon, which goes beautifully with the cheese and pasta. You may struggle to find the specialized Greek cheeses used traditionally in this recipe, so you can substitute. Parmesan is a good sub for the Greek cheese, but to use that amount of Parmesan alone would be completely overpowering – I used half Parmesan and half cheddar cheese instead.
I also used pre-made frozen bechamel sauce from the supermarket, but if you’re feeling virtuous you can make your own. I’ve included the recipe for home-made bechamel here too.
This recipe makes 10 servings, so it’s ideal for entertaining or feeding a hungry crowd.
Prepare the bechamel sauce:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour and then gradually whisk in the hot milk. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Stir in the salt, remove from heat and let cool. When the sauce is lukewarm, whisk in the eggs. Set aside.
If you’re using frozen bechamel, defrost two packets.
For the meat layer:
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add the onions and sauté until softened and golden. Crumble the beef into the skillet and cook with the onions until the beef is browned. Stir in the cinnamon, salt and pepper. Stir in the water and tomato paste, and simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside.
For the pasta layer:
Cook ziti or penne according to directions on the package. Drain and rinse with cool water. When pasta has completely cooled down, stir in the beaten eggs and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.
Assemble the dish:
Preheat your oven to 350 F/160 C fan/gas mark 4.
Spray a deep, large casserole dish with nonstick spray. You really need a deep casserole dish for this recipe, as the layers build up very high.
Scoop half of the pasta into the bottom of your prepared dish.
Sprinkle generously with cheese.
Spoon on the meat mixture to create an even layer
sprinkle with another layer of cheese. Scoop the remaining pasta on top of the meat and sprinkle with more cheese!
Top with the cream sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Bake 45 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and golden on top.
Let sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before serving.
If you want the distinct slices like in the main photo of this recipe, then you need to make the pastitisio early in the morning or the night before you want to serve it. It needs to be completely cold before you can slice it and keep its shape. You would then warm up the individual slices before serving.
You don’t have to wait to eat it, though – it’s just as delicious served hot from the oven, although you won’t get those neat layers. Whichever way you serve it, you’re bound to want seconds!