Monday, November 12, 2012

Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna)

Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna)

Brian and I both really like Greek food and, whenever we find ourselves in a Greek restaurant, we peruse the menu with great interest. We point out this dish and that as delicious choices and make plans to share different options. And then, we both order pastitsio. We love pastitsio! If you've never had the pleasure, pastitsio is a lasagna-like dish with layers of noodles, spiced meat sauce and bechamel topping. It doesn't taste anything like typical lasagna, though. Interesting and mysterious spices waft up from beneath the creamy sauce and all you can think to yourself is that this is Greek comfort food.

Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna)
After the first time we had it several years ago, I went home and began searching around for recipes as I typically do with restaurant dishes we like. But I got the impression the dish was complicated to make, with unfamiliar steps and I decided it was best left to the professional chefs at our favorite Greek restaurants. But last week my friend Sherron at Simply Gourmet posted her version of Pastitsio and I started to think that maybe it wasn't overly complicated after all. I compared her recipe to that of The Barefoot Contessa and the two were somewhat different. In the end, I combined my favorite aspects of both to create my own little spin.

I surprised Brian with it and he was eager to dig in and see how it compared to the restaurant version. He tasted, got a big smile on his face and proceeded to wolf down nearly the whole tray. Definitely blog worthy, he declared between bites, and then asked when were having this again. Enjoy!

Ingredients
1 lb. tube style pasta such as penne, cooked according to package directions

Meat Sauce:
1 lb. Lean ground beef
1 Onion, peeled and diced
4 Cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3/4 Teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 Teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 Cup red wine
1 Can (15 oz. ) plain tomato sauce
Salt & pepper to taste

Bechamel Sauce:
1 Clove garlic, peeled and minced
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 Cup all purpose flour
4 Cups whole milk
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup plain Greek style yogurt
1 Cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt & pepper to taste

Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna)
Make the meat sauce by adding the olive oil, onion and garlic to a large saute pan and cooking on low heat until translucent. Add the ground beef, breaking it up with a spatula or wooden spoon, and cook until browned. Add the tomato sauce, wine, thyme, oregano and cinnamon. Season to taste and cook on low heat for approximately 15 minutes. Add the cooked pasta and stir to combine.

In a separate large pan, make the bechamel sauce by melting the butter and adding the garlic. Cook for a minute on very low heat, making sure the garlic does not brown. Add the flour and whisk together to combine. Add the milk and continue whisking, on medium low heat, until the mixture begins to thicken (about 10 minutes). Whisk in the Parmesan cheese and season to taste. Set aside to cool.

When the bechamel has cooled, stir in the yogurt and eggs. Note that if your bechamel is still a little warm, temper the eggs first by placing them in a small bowl, adding a small amount of bechamel and whisking until combined. Then add the eggs to the large pan of bechamel.

Assemble the dish by placing the beef/pasta mixture into a 9" x 13" baking pan and pouring the bechamel over it. Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes or until the top is a light golden brown. Makes approximately 4 servings.

19 comments:

  1. Michael and his dad are OBSESSED with pastitsio too (and living in Astoria it's avail. on 90% of menus). Yours looks super delicious, love that I can make it at home now!

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  2. Anita, it turned out great! So glad that you can finally make a favorite at home.

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  3. Ahhhh, one of my favorite Greek foods. I love the smell of the cinnamon in it and the creamy sauce and the pasta and.... well, you get the point.

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  4. My hubby loves pastitsio!! I can't wait to make this for him!

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  5. This sounds so good! I love greek food but we don't have much opportunity to have it around here, I'll be giving this a try soon! At least I can get all the ingredients :-)

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  6. I've only had this when eating out and just never thought I would find a recipe - this looks fantastic and I want to try this recipe soon!

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  7. I love greek but have never had pastitsio! I'll be right over...

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  8. Best compliment ever is when they're wolfing in bites they pause and say...Blog worthy! lol Yumm... Sounds awesome, I've never tried it but know I would love it.

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  9. YUM!! i've never had anything like this before, but it sounds soooo good! i definitely need to try this!

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  10. Honestly, I've never heard of pastitsio before but I'm completely smitten :-0

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  11. You had me at Greek. And yes, Greek food is definitely a comfort. I am pinning this one for sure. Thank you for sharing this at Foodie Friends Friday.

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  12. Love Greek Food. Your pastitsio looks fantastic. Thanks for sharing on Thursdays Treasures

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  13. I like the addition of the Greek yogurt to the bachamel. I like to add a dash of cloves to my meat mixture...

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  14. Could it be split into to 8X8 pans and then one frozen either before or after being baked. I was just thinking that a 9X13 pan full would be too much for my husband and I.

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    1. Hi Kim S. - Yes, you can absolutely split this recipe into two pans but I'm not sure how well it would freeze because I haven't tried it. I think it would do OK but can't be sure. You can, however, just keep the second pan in the fridge and bake it off a day or two later for another round of lunches and dinners. If you do freeze it, please let me know how it fared.

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  15. I, too, loveLoveLOVE Pastitsio - possibly favorite Greek recipe, if I had to narrow it down. Dropped in at Kostas, in Madison, flat-out asked the owners at the time, Gus and Mary, what kind of cheese they used in making Saganaki (another fave); they kindly invited me into the kitchen for several wonderful afternoons spent making their recipes, walking me step-by-step through them (it's either Kasseri or Kefalotyri cheese, by the way! *grin*). Two things for you to try: 1. for the meat sauce, try a can of small-dice tomatoes, rather than meat sauce; it's a regional difference, I am told, and gives a slightly different texture to the sauce. Still totally delish. 2. Parmesan is a good sub in the bechamel if you cannot find either of the two cheese mentioned above; also, a good shake of nutmeg is that elusive other spice that wafts up. It pairs beautifully with the cinnamon and completely complements the tangy cheese. Happy cooking!! :)

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    1. ~Whoops, I meant try adding the small-dice tomatoes rather than TOMATO sauce to the meat. Sorry about that!

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  16. Not a good Greek cook would ever put yogurt or garlic in the crema. It should be thick like frosting swirled and piled high,not poured on.
    Put your garlic in the meat sauce where it belongs. Forget thyme. Seriously?
    If you are going to take the time to make something,at least make it right,or not at all. This is sacrilege to any good Greek cook. Nothing g more than a cheap fast food version.

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