Greek Pastitsio

Authors:
  • author name Ann Fulton
Scoop of Greek Pesto on a Plate, and The Pan Next to it

November is bookended by two incredible feasts. Thanksgiving is the obvious end-of-month celebration, and if you live in my hometown of Lancaster, you may be familiar with the Greek Food Bazaar, held each year on the first full weekend of November.

Possibly my favorite part of the Bazaar is a dish often referred to as Greek lasagna. Traditional pastitsio (pronounced pa-STEE-tsee-oh) is the ultimate comfort food, combining three fundamental components—pasta, meat filling and creamy sauce. The ingredients are layered in a pan, then baked to a bubbly, golden deliciousness.

Like lasagna, my version of the classic recipe is easy but requires a few pots. For added convenience, the pastitsio may be prepared in advance, and I hope you’ll agree that it’s worth a little extra dish washing! I’ve taken shortcuts where possible and have managed to keep the added fat to a minimum while maintaining the creamy decadence of the béchamel sauce.

To taste the mouthwatering original that inspired this recipe, visit the Greek Food Bazaar at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 64 Hershey Avenue in Lancaster. Further information can be found on the church website.

Greek Pastitsio

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces bucatini, ziti, or penne pasta (gluten-free may be used)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided use
  • 2⁄3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided use
  • 2⅓ cups milk, divided use (I use nonfat or 1%; 2% or whole may be used)
  • 2 eggs, beaten but used separately
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Half a medium onion, finely chopped (between ½ and ¾ cup)
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh mint (or ¾ teaspoon dried; may substitute an equal amount of oregano)
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder*

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions, keeping it on the al dente side. Drain and return to pot. Stir 2 tablespoons of the butter into the hot pasta, stirring to fully melt. (Or melt the butter first and add it to the pot.) Stir in ⅓ cup of the Parmesan cheese, ⅓ cup of the milk, and 1 beaten egg. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, sauté the ground beef and onion until the meat is cooked through and the onion is soft. Break up the meat as you go, and then drain any excess fat from the pan. Stir in tomato sauce, salt, mint, cinnamon, and nutmeg. If you taste the meat sauce now, it may seem a bit salty. Don’t worry—this will balance the unsalted components later. Set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, then mix in the cornstarch or arrowroot powder until smooth. Slowly add the remaining 2 cups of milk, stirring briskly as you pour so that no lumps form. Cook, stirring often, over medium-high heat until the sauce starts to thicken a bit. Cook and stir for another minute, then remove the pan from the heat.
  4. Beat the second egg in a small bowl. Stir in a few spoonfuls of the white sauce to temper the egg (this will keep the egg from scrambling when you add it to the hot sauce), then pour the egg mixture into the white sauce, stirring briskly. Stir in the remaining ⅓ cup of Parmesan.
  5. Add half the pasta mixture to an ungreased 11 x 7-inch baking dish or other 2-quart casserole. Spoon all of the meat mixture evenly over the pasta layer, and top with the remaining pasta. Finally, pour the white sauce over the pasta to completely cover. It’s fine if some of the noodle edges are sticking out.
  6. Bake, uncovered, in an oven preheated to 350º F for about 30–40 minutes, or until hot and lightly browned. If desired, you may broil for a minute or two, watching closely, to add some golden color to the top. Let the dish stand for 10 minutes, serve and enjoy.

NOTES

*If gluten is not a concern, you may use ¼ cup of all-purpose flour in place of the cornstarch or arrowroot powder.

  • Some people shy away from adding spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to a savory dish. Rest assured, their presence is subtle and doesn’t add sweetness, but it does enhance the flavor and add an authentic note to the dish.
  • I have also made this recipe with brown rice penne, which is an excellent whole grain and gluten-free pasta option.
  • Serve with a fresh green salad, traditional Greek salad or try my Greek Village Salad, a rustic combination of garden vegetables, feta cheese and kalamata olives, but no lettuce.
author name

Ann Fulton

Ann Fulton, is the creator of the popular blog Fountain Avenue Kitchen, where she shares quick and easy recipes designed for today’s busy lifestyles. Ann’s original recipes include simple, fresh ingredients that can be modified to meet a variety of dietary needs. LG Health is proud to be the exclusive health care partner of Ann Fulton and Fountain Avenue Kitchen. In collaboration with a registered dietitian from the LG Health Wellnes Department, Ann brings exciting recipes and healthy eating tips to our community as a featured contributor to the LG Health Hub.

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