> Lemon and Strawberries: Pastitsio with béchamel sauce - Greek pasta casserole

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Pastitsio with béchamel sauce - Greek pasta casserole

Another culinary discovery from Greece! I'd say pastitsio is a Greek housewives' response to Italian lasagne. This dish is made of layers of pasta, meat sauce with spices and topped with béchamel sauce.
Delicious, rich and very filling comfort food from amazing Greece. It smells and tastes heavenly good!
In my recipe I'm using a pastitsio pasta which can be found in local stores, but you can substitute it with other type.

I'm also using kefalotyri cheese to mix with pasta and eggs. If you can't find it, you may skip it or use parmesan. 

  • 800-900g minced meat
  • 1 big onion
  • 500ml tomato paste
  • handful freshly chopped parsley
  • 2 eggs
  • 250g kefalotyri
  • 500g (1 pack) pastitsio pasta
  • 1-2tsp cinnamon
  • 2-3tsp oregano
  • salt & pepper 
  • olive oil for frying
Heat up a pan with olive oil. Chop the onion and fry for 2-3 minutes, then add meat. Add salt, pepper, oregano and cinnamon and fry until meat is fully cooked. Add parsley.

Next, add tomato paste, extra salt & pepper if needed, mix it well, then lower the heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Let it cool down.
Meanwhile, in a big pot boil water with a little bit of salt and cook pasta (about 10-12 minutes). When it's cooked, put it in a colander and pour cold water over it to stop cooking process and to cool it down faster.
Prepare béchamel sauce:

  • 120g butter
  • 120g flour
  • 3glass milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 3tsp ground nutmeg
  • salt & pepper to taste
Dissolve butter in a pot. When it's completely melted add flour. Fry until it's slightly golden and add milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix all the ingredients together with a whisk. Make sure your sauce is smooth and there is no flour lumps in the mixture. Cook it for 5-10 minutes and when it's thick enough take it off the heat and set aside to cool down. You can place the pot in a bowl filled with cold water to save some time. 
Tip: If you notice your béchamel has some little lumps of flour, rub it through the sieve with a spoon. 

When your sauce is lukewarm, add eggs and whisk it all together.
Preheat your oven to 170-180°C (338-356°F). Whisk 2 eggs, add kefalotyri and mix it with cooked pasta.
Start layering pastitsio in a deep baking pan brushed with olive oil. Bottom layer is pasta with eggs & cheese. Then layer of meat sauce (use about a half of it) and again pasta. Another layer of meat sauce and pasta. Finish it off with béchamel sauce.
Place pastitsio in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until béchamel gets golden-brown color.
Pastitsio is easier to cut if you let it rest for about 30 minutes before serving. It goes great with fresh greek salad and feta cheese on the side.

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