If you haven’t tried Greek Pastitsio (Baked Greek Lasagna) before, then you are certainly missing out! To prepare a traditional pastitsio (pasticio) recipe, luscious layers of juicy minced beef are cooked in a tomato based sauce, with pasta and creamy béchamel sauce and all this baked together until golden perfection.. Simply irresistible! And with this step-by-step traditional Greek pastitsio recipe you can easily recreate this traditional delight from scratch! So go ahead, indulge yourself to this little sin..
Prepare the meat sauce
Greek pastitsio (pastichio/pasticcio/Pastizio) owes its full and rich flavour to the two aromatic spices used in this traditional pastitsio recipe, cinnamon and clove, which give a really characteristic flavour and smell. Once put in the oven, the intense aromas of the sweet spices permeates the house and brings back childhood memories. To prepare the meat sauce for this pastitsio recipe, the ground beef is sautéed in olive oil, flavoured with onions and garlic and then simmered in red wine and tomato sauce. Let it simmer for a while to allow the flavours to mingle.
Greek Pastitsio recipe – Prepare the Béchamel sauce
To achieve the perfect texture for your béchamel sauce, add the milk (preferably lukewarm) a little bit at a time whilst constantly stirring. The perfect béchamel sauce for your pastitsio should be smooth and creamy. The key is to whisk the sauce constantly to allow each time the flour to absorb the milk, so that it doesn’t get lumpy. Cook the sauce over medium-low heat in order to prevent it from burning and sticking on the bottom of the pan, but be careful to cook it enough, until you can’t taste the flour and is thick enough.
Greek Pastitsio recipe – Prepare the pasta
The pasta base for this pastitsio recipe is mixed with Greek feta cheese and enriched with its sharp and distinctive taste. Be careful to cook the pasta for the pastitsio 2-3 minutes less than the package instructions, so that they don’t get mushy after turning out of the oven later. Even though it will be really hard.. you should wait for the pastitsio to cool down for a while before cutting into pieces.
350g (12 ounces) macaroni for Pastitsio (you can substitute penne or ziti)
110g feta cheese (4 ounces)
For the meat sauce
700g lean minced beef (25 ounces)
2 medium sized red onions (finely chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
400g canned chopped tomatoes (14 ounces)
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp sugar
a glass of red wine
a bay leaf
1 cinammon stick
1 whole clove
1/4 of a cup olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the béchamel
120g flour (4 ounces)
120g butter (4 ounces)
900ml milk (3 and 1/2 cups)
2 egg yolks
100g Parmigiano-Reggiano or Kefalotyri (3.5 ounces)
a pinch of nutmeg
To prepare this traditional pastitsio recipe, start by making the meat sauce. Heat a large pan to medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Stir in the chopped onions and sauté, until softened. Stir in the garlic, tomato puree and the beef (breaking it up with a wooden spoon) and sauté. Pour in the red wine and wait to evaporate. Add the tinned tomatoes, the sugar, cinnamon, clove, the bay leaf and season. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer with the lid on for about 30 minutes, until most of the juices have evaporated. (After the meat is cooked, remove the bay leaf, the clove and the cinnamon)
Prepare the béchamel sauce for the pastitsio. Use a large pan to melt the butter over low-medium heat. Add the flour whisking continuously to make a paste. Add warmed milk in a steady stream and keep whisking in order to prevent your sauce from getting lumpy. If the sauce still needs to thicken, boil over low heat whilst continuing to stir. Remove the pan from the stove and add the egg yolks, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and the grated cheese. Whisk quickly, in order to prevent the eggs from turning an omelette!
Cook the pasta for the pastitsio 2-3 minutes less than the package instructions, so that they don’t get mushy after turning out of the oven later. Drain the pasta and stir in the eggs and the feta cheese (smashed with a fork) and mix gently with a spatula.
For this pastitsio recipe you will need a large baking dish, approx. 20*30 cm. Butter the bottom and sides of a pan and assemble the pastitsio. Layer the pasta, top with the meat sauce and even out. Top the pastitsio with the béchamel sauce and smooth out with a spatula.
Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake the pastitsio in preheated oven at 180-200C for about 40 minutes, until crust turns a light golden brown. Let the pastitsio cool down for a while before serving.