If you ask me what my most requested dish to mom was growing up, this was it! The best part, according to young me, was the creamy, yummy béchamel sauce. Young me would just eat the tops of the pieces and give back the rest. Of course now things have changed dramatically and I thoroughly enjoy and consume the entire dish, top to bottom.
Pastitsio starts with some cooked bucatini style pasta. We get our pastitsio pasta at the local Greek store, Amazon also has it. It’s a bit wider than the regular bucatini. Either is acceptable and you can even make this with some penne pasta. These pasta shapes give it that beautiful appearance when you slice and serve it! We’re going to mix the cooked pasta with some grated cheese, nutmeg and eggs to make it thick and creamy.
The thick delicious meat sauce has been a staple in our house for decades. It is also used in our Greek Makaronia with Kima. What separates it from any other meat sauce are the spices used; cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and all spice pieces. You can also use the ground versions of each being careful not to overdue it, those are very pungent in flavor.
The béchamel is the final component to this masterpiece. It’s a quick and simple version that comes together with some butter, flour, salt, whole milk and eggs. When the dish bakes for almost one hour it transforms the béchamel into this delicious thick crema that compliments the meat sauce and pasta perfectly. This is definitely a step filled dish, but worth every bite!
Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna)
- 1 lb pastitsio pasta (or bucatini)
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, (or kefalotyri) grated
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 3 tbs tomato paste
- 15 oz diced tomatoes, canned
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 whole cloves
- 6 pieces all spice
- 1 tbs sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 tbs butter
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 6 cups whole milk (warmed)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- Cook your pasta just almost al dente in salted water. RESERVE 2 CUPS PASTA WATER FOR THE MEAT SAUCE. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and toss with the parmesan, nutmeg and eggs. Coat all of the pasta thoroughly.
- In a large pot, heat your oil. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Add the ground meat to the pot and break up the meat with a wooden spoon, until finely minced and no longer pink.
- Next add the tomato paste and mix into the meat. Stir in the diced tomatoes, spices, sugar and salt and pepper to taste.
- Add in 2 cups of the pasta water from your spaghetti pot. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Stir your sauce occasionally until it thickens – about 30 minutes. If your sauce gets dry, add more pasta water.
- In a medium pot, melt your butter over medium high heat. Whisk in the flour until all is incorporated.
- Gradually add in the warm milk, 2 cups at a time, whisking CONSTANTLY. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, cook and stir constantly, 2 minutes, until it starts to thicken.
- Add the beaten eggs while whisking constantly. Bring to boil , cook and stir another 2 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 420°F.
- Transfer HALF of the pasta to a 9×13” baking dish and spread out evenly. Then add all of the meat sauce on top and spread out gently. Next add the remaining pasta and spread out.
- Evenly pour the béchamel onto the baking dish, gently spread with a spatula if needed.
- Lastly, sprinkle the top evenly with the grated parmesan cheese
- Bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown on top. Allow to cool at least 20 minutes prior to slicing.