Greek Pastitsio

How to make Pastitsio here in the UK, this is true comfort food Greek-style, a Greek-style lasagne.

You might well have had it while on holiday in Greece; you'll find it on every menu along with the more familiar moussaka - the boss of Greek food, oh, how I love moussaka!

Pastitisio - Greek Lasagne

But let me tell you pastitsio is definitely up there too.

So what is Pastitsio?

Sometimes spelt pastichio, is basically, like a lasagne, a layer of pasta followed by a delicious meat sauce and topped with béchamel (white sauce).

However, for this recipe and the same for moussaka, the béchamel contains egg yolks and therefore once cooked in the oven it becomes a bit more of a wobbly sauce rather than the sauce on lasagne - sorry that's the only way I can describe it!

With that said if you've never tried pastitsio nor moussaka, then you really should as they are both delicious. The main difference is the pasta because the recipe for moussaka contains potatoes and aubergines (eggplant).

Can Pastitsio be made in Advance?

Yes, you can prepare Pastitsio in advance. Assemble the pastitsio in your casserole dish, but do not bake.

Cover tightly and refrigerate and bake it the next day when you are ready; with that said I would remove it from the fridge at least 30 minutes before baking.

Whatever you do please don't leave out the allspice - seriously, taste the meat sauce before you add it and you'll see what I mean, it makes a huge difference to the taste.

It tastes okay but nothing to write home about. Once you add the allspice you will notice it becomes a thing of true deliciousness.

What is allspice?

Derived from the dried, unripe berries of the pimento tree, allspice delivers the flavours of many different spices including cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper.

Before being crushed down, allspice seeds resemble dark brown peppercorns.

The warm and earthy aroma of ground allspice makes it a key ingredient in many sweet and savoury dishes. 

The flavour of allspice brings to mind cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper.

a jar of ground allspice

You can make allspice at home and, to make 1 teaspoon: combine ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves and ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg. But don't forget that this recipe only requires just ½ a teaspoon.

Pastitsio is surprisingly really easy to make - start by making the meat sauce. Put a large pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and the chopped onions.

Cook whilst stirring for about 8 minutes until they are soft but not coloured.

making meat sauce in a frying pan

Add the garlic, tomato puree and cook for another minute before adding in the beef.

Be sure to break up the meat well - a wooden spoon works best, and brown for about 5 minutes.

Pour in the red wine and wait for it to evaporate almost completely - otherwise, your finished sauce will taste bitter.

Add the tin of tomatoes, the sugar, cinnamon, oregano and the bay leaf and season.

Meat sauce for pasitsio

Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down and simmer for about 30 minutes, until most of the juices have evaporated. Once the meat sauce is cooked, discard the bay leaf and make the béchamel sauce.

Now cook the bucatini pasta in salted water for 2 minutes less than the package instructions, so that it doesn't later go mushy after being in the oven.

cooked bucatini pasta in a saucepan

Use just half of the pasta and add it to your dish followed by all of the meat sauce.

layering pastitsio in a dish

Now add the rest of the pasta on top of the meat sauce.

meat sauce and pasta in a dish

Now make the béchamel sauce and once it's cooked pour it over the top and sprinkle with a little nutmeg.

Pastitiso ready for the oven

Cover with foil for the first 30 minutes of cooking. Then remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes or so until the top is lovely and light golden brown. 

Top Tip!

If you want your pastitsio to keep a nice shape for presentation - or like me to photograph it, you will need to leave it for about 20 minutes to cool down before cutting and serving.

But, in reality, we couldn't wait to dive in and so it didn't look anything like this when I served it - this was a piece I'd saved to photograph for this post - as you do!      

What do you serve with Pastitsio?

As with moussaka, a nice Greek salad is perfect, like this one in my moussaka recipe.

Greek salad

Greek,pastitsio,recipe,bucatini,pasta
main,dinner,meat,pasta
Greek
Yield: 4-6
Author: Jan Bennett
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Greek Pastitsio

Greek Pastitsio

A delicious pasta dish that you'll want to make again and again!
Prep time: 20 MinCook time: 1 H & 30 MTotal time: 1 H & 50 M

Ingredients

You will need a large dish for this - mine is 24cmx20cm
  • 400g Bucatini pasta - you can use penne
  • a little olive oil
  • 500g lean ground beef (5% fat)
  • 1 large brown onion - finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic - finely chopped
  • 1 x 400g good quality tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree (paste in the US)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 100ml red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of sea salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
For the béchamel
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 50g butter
  • 450ml whole milk
  • 1 egg (yolk only)
  • a good-sized handful of Kefalotyri or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt to taste

Instructions

  1. To prepare this traditional pastitsio recipe (pastichio), start with the meat sauce.
  2. Put a large pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and the chopped onions
  3. Cook whilst stirring for about 15 minutes until they are soft but not coloured.
  4. Add the garlic, tomato puree and cook for another minute before adding in the beef.
  5. Be sure to break up the meat well - a wooden spoon works best, and brown for about 5 minutes.
  6. Pour in the red wine and wait for it to evaporate almost completely - otherwise, your finished sauce will taste bitter.
  7. Add the tin of tomatoes, the sugar, cinnamon, oregano and the bay leaf and season.
  8. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down and simmer for about 30 minutes, until most of the juices have evaporated.
  9. Once the meat sauce is cooked, discard the bay leaf and make the béchamel sauce.
To make the béchamel
  1. In a saucepan melt the butter over medium-low heat and stir in the flour with a wooden spoon and cook the mixture for a couple of minutes and add the salt.
  2. Now at this point, take it off the heat and add the hot milk whilst using a balloon whisk.
  3. Have a taste and add a little more salt if you think it needs it.
  4. Let it cool before adding the egg yolk along with the parmesan cheese and keep whisking until it turns into this lovely smooth sauce. *If you don't let it cool first the egg will scramble.
  5. Mix in the ground nutmeg.
  6. Pour the sauce over the top of your pastitsio and top with a little more parmesan and a little sprinkling of nutmeg.
To assemble the pastitsio
  1. Cook the pasta for the pastitsio 2 minutes less than the package instructions, so that it doesn't later go mushy after being in the oven.
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of a baking dish and assemble the pastitsio. Layer half of the pasta, top with the meat sauce.
  3. Now add the rest of the pasta and top the pastitsio with the bechamel sauce.
  4. Sprinkle with a little more parmesan and cover with foil.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven at 200C (400F) fan oven for about 30 minutes and then remove the foil. 
  6. Now, pop it back into the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes by which time the top should have turned a lovely light golden brown colour.
  7. Let the pastitsio cool down for a little while before serving.

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Jan