Pastitsio Recipe, aka Greek Oven-Baked Pasta

Pastitsio is a traditional and famous Greek pasta dish topped with ground beef and bechamel sauce.

Ingredients

For the minced meat

21 oz / 600 gr ground beef

2 onions finely chopped

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

1 carrot

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp sugar

2 fl oz / 50 ml olive oil

5 fl oz / 150 ml red wine

Pinch of thyme

1 cinnamon stick

2 bay leafs

For the béchamel sauce

5 oz / 150 gr Graviera cheese, grated
(substitute with gruyere cheese in necessary)

35 fl oz / 1 liter milk

3.5 oz / 100 gr butter

2 egg yolks

3.5 oz / 100 gr all-purpose flour

½ tbs ground nutmeg

salt

pepper

Pasta

10oz / 300 gr long ziti or bucatini pasta

3.5 oz / 100 gr feta cheese, crumbled

1 oz / 30 gr butter

Water

salt

Procedure

For the pasta

  • Add the pasta to a pot full of salted water. Boil 1-2 minutes less than the instructions on the box. They need to be al dente because they will cook further in the oven, so do not overcook
  • Brush a baking pan with butter
  • When the pasta is ready, drain and spread in the baking pan.
  • Add the crumbled feta cheese on top of the pasta and set aside

For the béchamel sauce

  • Heat the butter in a pot over medium heat. As soon as it melts (do not let it burn), add the flour. Beat with a hand whisk and sauté the flour for a few minutes.
  • Scrape down the sides of the pot to release any flour, so it doesn’t burn.
  • Add the milk, in small batches, whisking continuously so that no lumps form in the mixture.
  • The mixture will be quite thick at first. You need to be persistent and patient.  As you add more and more of the milk, you will see how the béchamel sauce will start to become nice and creamy.
  • When the béchamel sauce starts to thicken, you have to be very careful not to let it burn on the bottom. Whisk continuously to avoid this.
  • When ready, remove from heat and add salt, pepper, nutmeg and all of the grated gruyere, apart from 1 tablespoon which will be added at the end of the recipe.
  • To complete, add the 2 egg yolks and whisk to incorporate.
  • Set aside until needed.

For the ground meat

  • Place a pan over high heat.
  • Add the ground meat. Break it up with a wooden spoon and brown for 4-5 minutes. At this point you may need to add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Add the finely chopped onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until the onions caramelize nicely.
  • Add the garlic and carrot and continue to sauté.
  • Add the tomato paste and sauté for at least 2 minutes. It is important to sauté the tomato paste to give it a more intense flavor.
  • Add the wine and let the alcohol evaporate.
  • Add the canned tomatoes, water, cinnamon, sugar, bay leaves and thyme.
  • Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 10-20 minutes, until the sauce reduces and the ground meat is cooked.
  • When ready, remove from heat. Discard the bay leaves and set aside until needed.

To assemble

  • Preheat oven to 180* C (350* F) Fan.
  • Bring back the baking pan containing the pasta mixture.
  • Spread the ground meat mixture over the pasta in the baking pan.
  • Pour the béchamel sauce over the ground meat.
  • Last, sprinkle the reserved grated graviera/gruyere over the top. You can also add some small cubes of butter.
  • Bake for 40 minutes or until the béchamel turns golden brown.
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