Pastitsio – Greek Lasagna

Pastitsio – Greek Lasagna is one of my childhood favorites made with comforting layers of long tubular pasta, a delicious homemade Mediterranean meat sauce spiced with ground cinnamon, allspice, cloves,  nutmeg, this classic Greek dish is topped with creamy béchamel and Kefalotyri cheese and guaranteed to be a family favorite for the dinner table.

Pastitsio – Greek Lasagna is one of those wonderful Mediterranean pasta recipes that take me back to my teen years in Ohio. It reminds me of two things, the holidays with my friends and one of my favorite festivals in Warren, Ohio that Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church hosts every year; The Greek Fest. This year will be their 50th Annual hosting of the Greek Festival, one of the largest Greek festivals in Ohio.

Pastitsio is one of the cherished classic Greek recipes I used to beg my friends to ask their mom’s for. In the beginning, no one was budging for my request of their cherished recipe for that delicious baked pasta, it actually took me years to earn the rights to the recipe. That request of mine required me to watch a few amazing women make their traditional family recipes several times to get this recipe on point. Moral of the story, if you want something special you need to be willing to put the labor and time in to make it properly.Have you ever had the pleasure of eating Pastitsio? If not you have missed out on what I consider one the best pasta dishes I have ever eaten. Forget what you know about the ingredients used in Italian-Style Lasagna because none of the will ingredients apply when making a Greek-style Lasagna.

Let’s talk a little about the pasta in this traditional greek recipe. most often you will see long tubular noodles that remind you of spaghetti length macaroni noodles. However, you can substitute them with any tubular pasta including penne pasta. I have seen my friends mothers use a variety of different types of tubular pasta including ridged pasta.So if you can not find the long tubular specialty pasta don’t even worry about it.

Another ingredient that we might want to discuss in this blog post is the Kefalotyri cheese I use in my recipe. You can usually find this cheese at any well-stocked deli or a specialty shop. An unpasteurized sheep’s milk cheese Kefalotyri or kefalotiri is a hard, salty white cheese made from sheep milk or goat’s milk in Greece and Cyprus.  If you can not find Kefalotyri cheese you can use a quality Parmesan cheese in place of it.

Pastitsio – Greek Lasagna

  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin Greek olive oil
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds of lean ground beef
  • 2 large garlic cloves minced
  • 3 cups of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 of a teaspoon of ground cloves
  • a good pinch of ground allspice
  • kosher salt, to own taste
  • fresh ground black pepper, to own taste
  • 1 pound of tubular pasta noodles, cooked al dente
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup of grated Kefalotyri cheese or Parmesan cheese divided x 2
  • cooking spray
Bechamel Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of whole milk
  • 1/2 of a cup of half and half cream
  • 1/4 of a cup of Kefalotyri cheese or Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/8 of a teaspoon of nutmeg
  • a pinch of salt
Directions for BECHAMEL SAUCE
  1. Measure out whole milk and the half and half creamers, place in a microwave-safe bowl heat slowly till warm. About 2-3 minutes in the microwave oven.
  2. Melt 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a metal skillet, on medium heat.
  3. Once the unsalted butter has melted add 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour stirring until thoroughly combined and the raw flour taste has cooked off about 2-4 minutes. Careful not to burn the mixture.
  4. Slowly add the warmed milk and half and half creamer, continuously stirring until joined and there are no lumps in the béchamel sauce. Reduce the heat to low once joined.
  5. Next, add the 1/4 of a cup of grated Kefalotyri cheese or Parmesan cheese to the sauce, stir a few times, then add the nutmeg and salt. Continue stirring till the sauce becomes thickened about 5-7 minutes

Directions to make PASTITSIO – GREEK LASAGNA

  1. In a large metal pan or deep metal skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and sauté the diced onion for about 6 minutes.
  2. Add the lean ground beef, stirring until the meat begins to brown.
  3. Next add the minced garlic, crushed tomatoes, cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground cloves, ground allspice, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to the meat. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 35 minutes, or until most of the liquid have been absorbed and meat is completely cooked. Remove from heat source, let the meat cool slightly.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  5. Make the béchamel sauce from the recipe and directions above.
  6. Boil the tubular pasta about 8 minutes or al dente. Remove the pasta from the heat, drain and rinse the pasta in cold water. Drain and add in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, lightly toss pasta to evenly coat the pasta noodles.
  7. Next lightly toss the pasta with about 1 half of the grated Kefalotyri cheese or Parmesan cheese, combine the pasta with the 2 beaten eggs till evenly coated.
  8. Lightly coat a large baking pan with cooking spray.
  9. Add a few ladles of meat sauce to the bottom of the dish, layer with 1/2 of the tubular pasta, then add a layer of the remaining meat sauce, finally, add the remaining pasta on top of the meat sauce layer. Pour the béchamel sauce over the pasta, making sure it’s evenly spread over the entire pan.Top with the remaining grated Kefalotyri cheese or Parmesan cheese.
  10. Bake for about 45 minutes, until light golden crust forms on top of the Pastitsio.
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© Heidy L. McCallum and The McCallum’s Shamrock Patch, 2017-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material or photos without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner are strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Heidy L. McCallum and The McCallum’s Shamrock Patch with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. You may not copy and paste recipes to share on Social Platforms.

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