Sunday, 12 July 2009


My exploration with Greek food continues with this beautiful Pastitsio. It was a stunner of a dish, absolutely amazing. It had a deeper, more meatier taste than an Italian lasagne and I really don't think I'd ever choose to make a lasagne over this ever again.

The process is quite involved, I haven't worked out how to make it without using a sinkful of pots and dishes. It's also not exactly a healthy dish, there's a lot of cheese and butter but it is so worth it.

The mince mix is fabulous. I love the flavours. Despite the bechamel and cheese, I think the mince is the star of this dish and everything else just makes it all the more wonderful.

This recipe makes tonnes. We got two huge casserole dishes out of it which meant we froze a lot. Luckily, it freezes well and defrosts easily. Now, not only is it an amazingly impressive dish on baking day but it also turns into an no fuss weeknight dinner out of the freezer. I can't rave about this recipe enough. It's so good it's even better than the pastitsio I tried at the Greek Festival last week.

I couldn't get my hands on any Greek cheese the first time I made this, and I had run out of parmesan so I (not very authentically) used some grated mozzarella we had leftover from a pizza night. The second time I made this I used a mix of Kefalograviera and parmesan. I think the saltiness of the cheeses in the second batch really added to the depth and flavour. The recipe tells you to coat the cooked pasta in a melted butter/milk/egg and cheese mix however I didn't feel that it added to the finished dish the first time. I just had a milky fatty gluggy mess left in my bowl and some wet pasta. I don't know what I did wrong. The second time I used the pasta mix in another Pastitsio recipe by Kittencal on Recipezaar, which use more butter and eggs but no milk. I cut back on the number of eggs and found that it worked a lot better. I felt it clung to the pasta and there was hardly any mix left in the bowl after I used the pasta.

Even with my tweaks and changes, both times this recipe has turned out an amazing result. It's one of my favourite dishes.

from evelyn/athens on Recipezaar

Meat sauce

enough olive oil, to just coat the bottom of a large pot
2 large onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1kg lean ground beef
2 450g cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine
1 cinnamon stick, broken in two


450g penne or rigatoni pasta
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups whole milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup grated kefalotiri or romano cheese or parmesan cheese

Bechamel Sauce

6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 eggs
225g grated kefalotiri or romano cheese or parmesan cheese, divided

For the meat sauce, put some olive oil in a large pot; saute onion until lightly browned; add garlic; add meat and cook until brown, crumbling with a fork; add remaining meat sauce ingredients to skillet; mix well; cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until quite thick; let mixture cool; remove and discard cinnamon stick and bay leaf.

Prepare pasta by boiling until al dente in plenty of boiling, salted water; drain and place pasta in a large bowl; add butter, milk, eggs and 1/2 cup cheese; gently stir to coat; set aside.

To prepare bechamel sauce, melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan; stir in flour until smooth, cook, whisking for 2 minutes; gradually add milk, stirring, until thickened; lower heat; add salt, pepper and nutmeg; remove from heat.

In medium-sized bowl, beat 3 eggs; slowly add hot cream sauce to eggs; stir thoroughly so eggs don't curdle.

Preheat oven to 180°C and butter or oil (with olive oil) a large baking pan.

Empty 1/2 of the penne mixture over bottom of pan; cover evenly with all of meat sauce; sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over meat sauce; add remaining penne mixture, spreading evenly; sprinkle another 1/3 of the cheese over top; pour bechamel sauce evenly over entire casserole; top with remaining cheese.

Bake until bechamel sauce sets and has golden-brown patches across top, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour; cool at least 20 minutes before cutting into pieces for serving.

Freezer Notes: Once the baked pastitsio has completely cooked, cut serving-size pieces, double-wrap in foil and freeze. Defrost in the usual manner and reheat in microwave (or oven).

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