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Pastitsio - Greek Meat and Pasta Pie

Pastitsio is a layered meat and pasta pie, sort of a Greek-style lasagna, that uses a tubular pasta like ziti or penne and bechamel sauce instead of ricotta cheese. It's somewhat time consuming to prepare, but depending on how many people you are feeding, it can make several meals. Pastitsio is economical, freezes easily and reheats well. As a matter of fact, it actually develops more flavor by the second day.

Pastitsio - Greek Meat and Pasta Pie

Pastitsio - Greek Meat and Pasta Pie

  • For the meat filling:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, peeled and diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • For the Béchamel sauce:
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 or 4 whole allspice berries
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • For the pasta mixture:
  • 1 lb penne
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup bechamel sauce
  • For the topping:
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

First, prepare the meat filling:
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat and add the onion, celery, and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes until the onion becomes soft and translucent. Transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the ground beef. Cook thoroughly, breaking up chunks as much as possible. Once the meat is cooked, drain any excess fat. Stir in the red wine, tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon, allspice, oregano, bay leaves and salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then return the onion, garlic, celery mixture to the pan. Simmer the mixture over a low heat for 30 to 40 minutes to allow flavors to blend and develop. Remove from heat and stir in fresh parsley. Makes 5 cups.

Prepare the béchamel sauce:
Heat the milk together with the bay leaf and the allspice berries in a saucepan over low heat. In a separate pan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste is smooth and well blended. Remove the bay leaves and allspice from the milk and begin adding it to the flour mixture slowly, whisking constantly to form a smooth, thick sauce. Remove the sauce from the heat and allow to cool slightly before adding the cheese and nutmeg. Set aside. Makes 4 cups.

Cook the pasta:
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite ~ al dente. Drain and transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool slightly. Once the pasta has cooled, add the butter, beaten eggs, parmesan cheese and 1 cup of the prepared béchamel sauce. Combine well.

Assemble the pastitsio:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with butter. Layer 1/3 of the pasta mixture in the bottom of the dish, spreading as evenly as possible. Layer 1/2 of the meat mixture on top of the pasta. Layer another third of the pasta over the first layer of meat. Top that with the rest of the meat mixture, then spread the remaining pasta on top. Spread the remaining 3 cups of béchamel sauce over the entire surface. Top with the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

Makes 10 servings

Recipe Notes:
This recipe calls for ground beef, but we have also used a combination of ground chicken and pork. We liked the finished product just as well if not better, so don't hesitate to vary the meat choice to suit your taste.

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