Pastitsio (Baked Greek Lasagna)
Pastitsio is a traditional Greek dish that consists of layers of baked pasta, juicy minced beef, and béchamel sauce topped with melted cheese. The minced beef is cooked in a tomato sauce along with some spices.
This traditional Greek recipe is also called “Greek lasagna”, as its beef sauce has a similar taste to the Italian Bolognese sauce. With its intense flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice, it is the perfect dish for a cold winter night.
Pastitsio (Baked Greek Lasagna)
- 500 g pasta tubular pasta, such as rigatoni, penne or tortiglioni
- 100 g grated headcheese kefalotiri cheese or Parmesan cheese
- 2 heaping tablespoons of butter + extra for the pan
- 10 g fresh white breadcrumbs
- grated oregano
For the meat sauce:
- 1 kg minced beef
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of oregano
- 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
- 150 ml dry red wine
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes approx. 400 g
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove
For the white sauce (Béchamell):
- 4 cups milk 4 cups of milk
- 4 tbsp flour
- 6 tbsp butter
- 100 g grated headcheese Kefalotyri or Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 egg + 2 yolks lightly beaten
Prepare the minced meat sauce:
- To prepare the meat sauce, begin by heating the oil in a pan. Add the onion, garlic, and celery, and sauté for 2-3 minutes until they start to take on a light brown color. Next, add the ground meat and cook it over high heat for 3–4 minutes, ensuring you break apart any clumps with a wooden spoon as the meat browns.
- Pour in the red wine, followed by the tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon stick, ground cloves, oregano, bay leaves, 100ml of water, 1½ teaspoons of salt, and a dash of black pepper. Let the mixture simmer for 30–40 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the sauce has thickened to a desirable consistency while retaining its moisture.
- Finally, remove and discard the cinnamon stick. the clove and the bay leaf, and set the sauce aside for later use.
Prepare the béchamel sauce:
- For the béchamel, melt the butter in a small saucepan and when it foams, stir in the flour until it starts to brown. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the milk, a little at a time. Season with salt and pepper, add a pinch of nutmeg, return the pan to the heat, and continue to stir the mixture until it boils and thickens. Add the egg, yolks, and grated cheese, stirring continuously, and remove the pan from the heat.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). While the oven is heating, boil the pasta in salted water until it reaches an "al dente" texture. Be cautious not to overcook it, as it will undergo further cooking in the oven. Once boiled, drain the pasta thoroughly and then transfer it to a spacious bowl, allowing it to cool slightly.
Assemble the pastitsio:
- Blend 250ml (approximately one-fifth) of the white sauce into the warmed pasta, combining it with the beaten eggs and half of the grated cheese. Maintain the remaining béchamel sauce at a low heat, occasionally stirring and adding more milk if it begins to thicken excessively.
- Butter a large baking pan and layer half of the pasta in it. Spread the minced meat sauce over the pasta and then cover it with the béchamel sauce. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese and some breadcrumbs and bake at 190 degrees for 30-35 minutes until our pastry gets a golden color.
- Allow the pastitsio to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy your delicious homemade pastitsio!
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