Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Pastitsio (Greek lasagna)

Pastitsio is a Greek pasta dish that I refer to as "Greek lasagna." With layers of noodles, a hearty meat sauce and a thick, creamy bechamel, this meal is one of our favorite Greek dishes.

Our local community has an annual Greek festival that we always look forward to. My husband and I can't get enough gyros, spanakopita, baklava and other Greek treats. We've been going for many years, and one of my favorite dishes is what I lovingly refer to as Greek lasagna - pastitsio.

While I've contemplated making this on my own, I never had the nerve to try. Instead, I happily bought a slice at the Greek festival and typically order it at a Greek restaurant. I soon came to find that my 1st grader is also a big fan of the dish. If she isn't ordering a standard cheese pizza at the Greek restaurant, she's usually stealing my pastitsio. It was time to give the girl her own slice.

I found this recipe from my friend Ashley, who blogs over at Wishes and Dishes. Ashley and I have been online friends for several years but haven't actually met in person. Her recipe made this dish rather easy to make and not as intimidating as I originally thought it was going to be. If you can make lasagna, you can make pastitsio.

I made this for Mother's Day brunch (for just the 3 of us, mind you). It was such a hit that Addie wanted seconds and thirds. She also begged to bring slices for lunch the rest of the week, which I happily obliged. My husband usually isn't the world's biggest pastitsio fan but even commented on how awesome this dish was. I think I may have converted him, actually.

Don't get me wrong - once the Greek festival is here, I am sure I'll still buy a slice for Addie to eat. But now we can make all year long rather than once a year. Thanks, Ashley!

Pastitsio (Greek lasagna) 
  • 2 pounds ground beef or lamb (I used a blend of beef, pork and veal)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (one 8 ounce can)
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 pound ziti (can substitute with penne if you can't find ziti)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 eggs, divided
  • 1 and ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cup milk (I used 1%)
Directions
Generously grease a standard 13" x 9" baking pan and set aside.

In a large nonstick pan, brown the ground meat and onion on medium high heat until no pink remains. Drain. Add the garlic and drain any remaining liquid.

Add the tomato sauce, wine, tomatoes, parsley, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper. Once it begins to boil, turn the heat down to medium low and allow it to simmer for at least 20 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta until just shy of al dente. Drain the pasta and add the oil and toss to coat. Add in 2 beaten eggs and 1/2 cup of the parmesan. Set aside (but not on the stovetop or else your eggs will scramble).

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir constantly until a thick paste forms. Cook for 1 more minute. Slowly stream in the milk and continuously whisk until the mixture thickens to almost pudding consistency. Remove from the heat and add in 2 beaten eggs and the remaining 1 cup of parmesan. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg. This sauce will be super thick.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Transfer half of the pasta to the bottom of your greased pan. Make sure you cover the entire bottom of the pan. Add all of the meat sauce on top. Then add the remaining pasta on top of the meat sauce. Pour the sauce on top of the pasta and make sure you spread it evenly across.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Allow the pastitsio to cool for 15-20 minutes before serving so that it will firm up.

If you don't plan on eating this the same day, you can cover with aluminum foil and allow it to chill in the refrigerator. Let the dish thaw for at least an hour before baking. You may need to add more baking time.


Yield: One 13"x 9" pan; about 12-16 servings

Source: Wishes and Dishes

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