My DH (Dear Husband) and I attended a Greek Festival last weekend at one of the local churches; DH’s father was Greek and DH is very proud of his Greek cultural heritage. DH was in his element and I’m sure he thought he’d died and gone to heaven (at least for the couple of hours we were there). The food was amazing, especially the desserts which consisted of Honey Puffs, Kadaifi, Milk-Custard Pastry … to name but a few. And, in true Greek tradition, the extended family was there in plentiful numbers. When it comes to Greek family and culture, the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding should have been classified as a documentary!!
One of DH’s, favorite dishes is Pastitsio. I’m not sure any longer where I initially got this recipe from as I have had it a good few years, nor am I sure of its ‘authenticity’ in regards to Greek cookery however this is a firm favorite in our family.
The things I love about this recipe (apart from it simply tasting fantastic!) is that the amounts here will make approx 10-12 servings, so its great if you are cooking for a crowd. It freezes really well too, so it’s also excellent to add to your Once A Month Cooking (OAMC) list.
Recipe for Pastitsio
- 1 Tablespoon of olive oil (enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan)
- 2 large onions, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 lbs (approx 1 kg) lean ground meat
- 2 16 ounce cans (approx 2.5 x 410gm cans or the equiv) diced tomatoes with juice (concasse)
- 1/3 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives (optional)
- 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 (you really can’t omit this or the meat just doesn’t end up with the ‘right’ flavor)
- 1 lb (approx 500gms) penne or rigatoni pasta
- 8 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup grated kefalotiri or romano cheese or parmesan cheese
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup flour
- 4 cups milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 lb (approx 250gms) grated kefalotiri or romano cheese or parmesan cheese, divided
Method:**You will need a large and fairly deep baking/casserole dish approx 10″x18″ (25cmx45cm).Preheat oven to 350F/180C
To make the meat sauce:
- Pop a bit of olive oil into a large pot
- Lightly saute the onion until it is clear
- Add the meat and the garlic, and crumble the meat with a fork as it cooks
- Add the remaining meat sauce ingredient, stir well and allow it to simmer approx1 hour, giving it the occasional stir, until it cooks down and becomes quite thick.
- When its finished cooking, remove it from the heat and take out the bay leaf and cinnamon stick.
- Allow to cool.
To cook the pasta:
- Boil a large pot of lightly salted water.
- Cook the pasta until it is aldente.
- Drain and in a large bowl, add the milk, butter, eggs and the 1/2C cheese and gently stir it to combine and coat the pasta.
To prepare bechamel sauce:
- Melt the butter over a medium heat (be sure not to brown/burn it).
- Using a whisk, stir in the flour until you have a smooth mixture.
- Continue to whisk it and cook it for 2 minutes.
- Slowly add the milk and keep stirring until the sauce thickens.
- Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and remove the sauce from the heat.
- Beat the 3 eggs in a medium sized bowl.
- Slowly add the hot cream sauce to eggs whilst stirring so as to prevent the eggs from curdling.
Assembly of dish and final cooking:
- You can do this a couple of ways by either placing 1/2 of the pasta mixture into the bottom of your baking dish and then covering it evenly with all the meat sauce, then adding another layer of the remaining pastaorYou can do it the ‘lazy’ way like I do and use all the pasta mixture for the bottom layer, and top with the meat sauce.
- Finally, pour the bechamel sauce evenly over meat layer to cover it all and top it with the remaining cheese.
- Cook this for approx 45mins to 1hr, until the bechamel sauce has set and the top has lovely cooked golden brown areas across the top.
- Allow the dish to sit for at least 20mins once it is out of the oven, before cutting it for serving
DH tells me this is every bit as good as the Pastitsio his mom used to cook and I hope that you enjoy it too!