Flavors of Greece: Pastitsio – Greek Lasagne

Pastitsio - Greek Lasagne

Still drooling over the recipes from the Greece Issue of Saveur’s August/September 2010 issue, I came across this recipe for Greek Lasagne or Pastitsio.   I adore lasagna and over the years have created several homegrown renditions of my own recipe.   I need to measure ingredients and time everything of my own lasagna recipe and share it.

In this tasty recipe, traditional lasagna noodles were not used and not one shred of mozzarella. At first glance from the image above, it looks like a lot of gooey cheese deliciousness. It’s actually béchamel sauce that transforms into a textured crust with a velvety, creamy blanket that seethes through the noodles and meat sauce below.     Take a look at the ingredients…it’s a tasty casserole.     The meat sauce alone, is marketable.

I had a couple tablespoons of meat sauce leftover and made little crostini appetizers to tie us over while the pasta baked.   Plan ahead when making this dish, it takes some time with the prep, making the sauces, assembling and baking time.

Teenie Notes

  • Made adjustments to both the amount of green pepper, onions, and crushed tomatoes used.
  • Did not use dry-cured chorizo, which I’m sure really makes a good difference in the flavors of the overall dish. Instead, I used 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef.
  • I substituted ziti pasta because I could not find Greek macaroni.
  • Any good red wine will do for this recipe. I had a bottle of Blackstone 2008 Zinfandel already open, so that’s what was used.
  • Added another 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese to the béchamel.
  • Next time I make this, I would grate about 1/4 cup of fresh Asiago cheese and sprinkle over the top of the béchamel.
Pastitsio – Greek Lasagne
source modified from Saveur August/September 2010

Serves 10-12

Ingredients for Meat Sauce
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded and minced
1/2 large medium yellow onion, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (80% lean, 20% fat)
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup red wine
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 2″ cinnamon stick
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Ground nutmeg, to taste

Ingredients for Béchamel and Pasta
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
1 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 eggs, separated
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Ground nutmeg, to taste

1 pound Greek macaroni, bucatini or elbow macaroni (I used ziti pasta)

Make the Meat Sauce
Heat oil in a large 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add peppers and onions and cook, stirring often until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon (to leave as much of the olive oil behind), transfer the onion/pepper to a plate or bowl and set aside.

Add ground meat to skillet and cook, breaking meat up into tiny pieces until browned, about 6-8 minutes. Add the reserved onion mixture, long with tomatoes, wine, chile flakes, bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove sauce from heat, discard bay leaves and cinnamon and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Let it cool.

Pastitsio - Meat Sauce

Make the Béchamel

Heat butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly until smooth and slightly tasted, about 1-2 minutes. Add milk; cook, whisking often, until sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 3/4 cup cheese and egg yolks. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir until smooth; set aside.

Prepare Pasta

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add pasta and cook halfway through, about 6 minutes. While pasta is cooking, whisk egg whites in a large bowl until frothy. Stir in remaining cheese; drain pasta in colander and then toss with egg white-cheese mixture to coat evenly. Set aside.

Assemble and Layer

Grease a deep 9″x13″ baking dish with olive oil. Place half the pasta mixture on bottom of dish and cover evenly with meat sauce. Top with remaining pasta mixture.

Pour béchamel over pasta, spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 1 hour. Transfer to wire rack and cool at least 20 minutes before serving.

Serve with crusty bread and delicious bottle of red wine!

Pastitsio - Greek Lasagne

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  1. says

    Christina
    your pastitsio looks so very very good!! I have never had it before, but even though I don’t eat beef I would have to dig into that wonderful tasty dish!! I do love trying foods from other cultures, what an adventure we have thanks to all the wonderful foods out there!
    thanks so much for all your hard work bringing us this dish!
    Dennis

  2. says

    I’ve had Pastitsio in restaurants, but never thought about making it at home. This looks like the ultimate in comfort food. I think my problem would be restraining myself from eating and eating and eating…

  3. says

    A friend of mine and I once made Pastitsio, but tried using skim milk instead of whole for the Bechamel. After whisking for over 20 minutes and nothing happening, we called her mom to ask for advice. Turns out, you need lots of fat. So, we started over again with fattier milk and lots of butter–wouldn’t you know, it turned out in no time. :)

    Blah blah blah, I’m just rambling…but this recipe made me reflect on good times. :) Love Pastitsio! This looks great.

  4. says

    Oh wow…this looks very delicious. My children would love this. The sauce looks very delicious. You are right…marketable! Thanks very much for sharing. I must keep this to try.

  5. says

    So I adore lasagna…but I do get bored with the classic variation. This looks so very amazing! Thank you for sharing it with us. We are going to try to make this once it cools down. And I’m still enjoying the figs…I eat a couple of dried ones every morning! Thanks sweet woman!

  6. RKM says

    Please serve me a huge piece! This looks delicious, I love pasta, and I thought it was covered with cheese by they photo. This must taste amazing, I will try and make this on the weekend. Thank you so much for all your delicious treats, your photo’s always make my mouth water!