Pastitsio is referred to as Greek Lasagna seasoned with spices and topped with creamy bechamel sauce.
Course Main Course
Prep Time 10minutes
Cook Time 1hour
Total Time 1hour10minutes
½can 7 ounces tomato sauceoptional
2-½cupsuncooked penne pasta
½ - ¾cupgrated Parmesan cheese
1cupgrated Kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese
In a saucepan over medium to low heat, melt butter.
Add flour stirring constantly so that it does not turn lumpy.
Slowly add milk and keep stirring.
Add salt, ground pepper and nutmeg. Continue cooking.
Adjust heat to medium high and after a few minutes the sauce will start to thicken. Once sauce is thick remove from heat.
Slowly add beaten eggs while stirring constantly.
Add Parmesan cheese stirring briskly.
Note: If you want a thicker layer of béchamel sauce, make 1 ½ or double the recipe.
Also, I don’t wait for sauce to cool down. Once meat mixture and pasta are ready, I put them all together.
In a large pot over medium heat, add olive oil.
Saute onion for 3 minutes.
Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes and cook until soften. Crush tomatoes with utensil.
Add ground beef. (For a leaner beef get sirloin or 85% - 90% lean ground beef.) Stir and mix well until all lumps of meat are dissolved.
Add oregano, bay leaves, basil, thyme, salt, cinnamon and garlic powder. Mix and cover. Continue cooking for 30 minutes.
Remove some liquid from meat mixture. Turn off heat.
Pasta – while beef is cooking, make the penne pasta.
Add 5 cups of water in a big pot.
Add salt and oil in water.
Once water boils, add penne pasta. Keep heat on high the whole time.
Follow the instructions on the package. Don’t overcook the pasta.
Once done, use a strainer and drain water from pasta.
Note: If beef mixture and pasta are both done, it doesn’t have to cool down. You can go ahead and prepare the pastitsio in the dish pan.
Use a 13 x 9 dish pan or pyrex.
Grease dish pan or pyrex with butter or olive oil.
Toss-in penne pasta at the bottom of the pan.
Add 2 tablespoon of soft unsalted butter. If pasta is still hot it will melt the butter. If penne pasta has cooled down already, melt butter in the microwave or in the stove. Mix it with the pasta.
When pouring pasta in the dish it will be pointing in different directions. It is fine to leave it like that. If you watch my video, you will see I have arranged the pasta neatly. I am meticulous and it will bug me if I don’t. I might as well. It took sometime but I like how they looked once cooked and cut into pieces. Again, this is an optional step..
Toss-in parmesan cheese.
Add beef mixture and spread it evenly.
The bechamel sauce is the top layer. Spread evenly..
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 60 minutes. For the first 40 minutes, cover the top of pyrex with foil and remove cover 20 minutes before done.
Switch setting from bake to broil for 3 to 5 minutes to lightly brown the top. Do not burn the béchamel sauce. Oven settings vary so watch it.
Once done. Let it cool down. Cut into pieces.
In my video, I cut the recipe in half that serves 3 to 4 people and I used an 8.75 in x 5.25 in x 3 dish pan.
Pastitsio is tastier after a day when pasta has been infused with all the delicious flavor.
Follow the package directions on cooking pasta. Cook it “al dente” an Italian word for firm when you bite it. Over done pasta is not as good as firm.
You can make the béchamel sauce in advance or if you have left over sauce, it can be stored in the freezer and thaw in room temperature.
If béchamel sauce is too thick, add more milk and mix well.
Use paprika or ½ cup of tomato sauce to give beef mixture some color.
When pastitsio has cooled down, the top of the bechamel sauce will look dry. Brush it with melted butter if you like but optional.