“ Meet the Greek cousin to lasagna, pastitsio. Layered with pasta, meat sauce, warm spices, and cheese, this classic dish is topped with creamy béchamel which puffs up for a perfectly comforting casserole. Alexa, Recipe Hunter ”
Tired with regular old lasagna? Spice things up with pastitsio (pronounced pahs-TEET-see-o), the Greek version of lasagna. Layers of noodles, meaty tomato sauce and a creamy bechamel sauce are combined to create an indulgent Mediterranean casserole. The word “pastitsio” comes from the Italian word “pasticcio,” or a large family of savory, baked pies. Other places like Cyprus and Malta have their own versions, but the Greek version is the one we’re interested in.
The flavor of the three different layers is deepened by adding a touch of allspice and cinnamon, which complements the richness of the bechamel and meat sauce. Once cooled, the topping becomes almost custard-like, and the layers meld together, creating the perfect one-pan dish. Although a bit labor intensive, this dish is completely worth it. One bite and you’ll be saying “Opa!”
For the meat sauce
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 lbs. ground beef/lamb
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups canned tomato puree
- ¼ cup grated Romano cheese (or Kasseri, if you can find it)
- ¼ cup crumbled Feta
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
For the pasta
- 1 lb. bucatini (or similar pasta like penne or ziti)
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup grated Romano cheese
- 1 cup crumbled Feta
- 2 egg whites
For the béchamel
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- ¼ cup grated Romano cheese
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
For the topping
- ¼ cup grated Romano cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Step 2: Brown the Meat
In a medium/large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion in the oil until softened (about 5 minutes), then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the ground beef or lamb and break up the meat and cook until browned, 5-7 minutes.
Step 3: Make the Meat Sauce
If there is a lot of fat in the pan, remove most of it. Add the allspice, cinnamon, sugar, salt, and pepper and cook for 1 minute to toast the spices. Add the tomato puree and 1 – 1 ½ cups of water.
Bring to a boil them lower to a simmer for about 30 minutes. You don’t want too much extra sauce in the pan. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
Once cooled, mix in the beaten egg and the cheese mixture. Set aside.
Step 4: Cook the Pasta
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain, toss with 1 teaspoon of olive oil (so the pasta doesn’t stick) and let cool to room temperature. Once cooled, fold in the cheeses and the egg whites. Set aside.
Step 5: Make the Béchamel Sauce
To make the bechamel, heat the milk in the microwave for 2-3 minutes until hot and set aside. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add the flour and whisk until smooth and no lumps remain. Cook for 2 minutes, whisking frequently. While whisking, pour the hot milk into the flour and butter mixture and whisk until smooth. Continue to cook until thickened, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Once the mixture is completely cooled, whisk in the eggs.
Step 6: Assemble the Pastitsio
Butter a large casserole dish, such as a 9×13 pan. Layer half of the pasta in the bottom of the dish and press to flatten.
Next, layer the meat mixture on top of the pasta and press down.
Spread the remaining noodles on top of the meat and press down.
Pour the béchamel on top of the last layer of noodles and spread to cover completely. Sprinkle entire casserole with Romano cheese.
Step 7: Bake
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top is browned and puffy.
Let cool for at least 20 minutes, then slice into large squares and serve.
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