This is the second installment of the Greek inspired recent dishes, which has always been my favorite Greek dish. Pastitsio is often described as a Greek lasagna which is fairly accurate. This was a combination of a few recipes as they all differed quite a bit. Either way, it is not a beginner recipe but it seriously may have been the best thing we have ever made! I even met a new cheese in the process.
As mentioned, when looking up pastitsio recipes they varied from the type(s) of meat to use, to type of cheese(s), to the various spices to add. This recipe involved the meat sauce prep stage, pasta prep and mix stage, and bechemel sauce/topping stage. First with the meat stage since it has to simmer for a while before anything else can be done. Start by sauteing onions in olive oil then adding the meat. We used all beef and had planned on using half beef and half ground lamb, but the meat market was out of ground lamb which is rare.
Once the meat is thoroughly browned, drain as much juice as you can. Add red wine and bring back to a simmer. Then add garlic, cinnamon, oregano, and cayenne.
Stir at a simmer for 5 minutes then add a can of crushed tomato, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly and simmer on low for about 45 minutes.
Towards the end of the 45 minutes, start the pasta water and bechamel sauce. We used penne pasta instead of greek tubular pasta and again used Dreamfields. Some of the recipes called for parmesan cheese and some of the more authentic ones called for kefalotiri cheese for which I saw many different phonetic spellings. I was able to find it at Stamoolis in the Strip, a Greek market and really liked the cheese in the dish and just on it’s own. It was very similar to a parmigiano reggiano flavor(but cheaper) and sort of crumbly like feta but didn’t totally fall apart.
To start the bechamel sauce, heat 2 pots simultaneously. In the first, heat the milk and the cream until simmering. In the second, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until smooth.
Then combine the two contents and stir over low heat for 5-7 minutes until thick and smooth. Stir in nutmeg, salt, and pepper and stir for another minute. Turn flame off and leave on burner.
Add in 3/4 cup of shredded kefalotiri cheese and stir until melted.
The next step threw me for a loop, but made sense once I saw the finished product. Add a healthy scoop of the meat mixture which should be finished simmering and resting now.
This is the first time that I made a bechemal sauce and this may not be a typical step but I saw it on a few recipes and thought it was pretty wacky but went with it. Like I said, some recipes had it and some didn’t so I am not sure what is “standard” or not. The step is to add 2 beaten eggs and Greek yogurt and mix and the sauce is finished! Make sure to wait for about ten minutes after completing all steps until adding the egg and yogurt so you don’t get a sauce with scrambled eggs.
All three stages should have overlapped by this point and are about to literally overlap. Mix the cooked pasta and meat sauce, I did this right in the dutch oven that the final product was going to be assembled in.
I used to think that the pasta noodles were individually lined up when I would see a cross section of pastitsio, but that is not the case and they are just mixed together. A cross section of the cooked and cooled final product proves that:
Back to the assembly, pour the bechamel on the noodle and meat sauce mixture and cover with another 3/4 cup of grated kefalotiri.
The recipes called to bake for about an hour uncovered. I pulled this out 5-10 minutes early and it was a good thing that I did.
We allowed it to cool for 20 minutes of more, but it was still pretty messy when cutting and serving. Here is a shot of that first serving. Trust us that it tasted a lot better than this picture looks!
And some better post refrigeration pictures where it could be cut into squares.
Well worth the somewhat difficulty of the recipe. I haven’t looked at the directions so many times while making a dish in a while, but that is because I was combining a few recipes and it was the first time that I attempted this dish. I will stick with the combined recipe below from now on and it will get easier from here on out. The next time that I make it, I will plan to use half beef and half lamb. Seriously one of, if not the best dish we have ever made!
Wow, this is stunning! I have a feeling it’s absolutely delicious… And your step-by-step photos are super helpful!
Thank you for sharing this. I had some of this down the Strip last year from a man selling it (and other Greek foods) at a long row of tables and fell in love with it. I haven’t managed to see him there since and have been craving it.
I’ll have to try this soon; it looks so good!
oh man this looks amazing…. i’m a sucker for greek food after working in a greek diner during college… will definitely have to try this!
I made this exact recipe in a 9X13 but it fell apart when I tried to cut it into squares. Any suggestions?
Yeah ours fell apart too some. Best way to avoid that is to let it cool more and/or put in the fridge for a while, maybe even overnight, then cut it into squares and re-heat.