When it comes to Greek cuisine, few dishes can rival the indulgent and flavorsome experience offered by authentic Pastitsio. This mouthwatering comfort dish is a true gem of Greek culinary tradition. With its layers of pasta, rich meat sauce, and creamy béchamel, Pastitsio is a symphony of textures and flavors that delights the senses.
Pastitsio holds a special place in Greek culinary heritage, with its roots tracing back to ancient Greece. Its name is believed to be derived from the Italian word “pasticcio,” which refers to a baked dish consisting of various ingredients. Over the centuries, Pastitsio has evolved into a quintessential Greek dish, cherished by both locals and visitors alike.
The beauty of authentic Pastitsio lies in its harmonious combination of ingredients, each adding its unique essence to the final creation. At its core, Pastitsio features tubular pasta, typically penne or macaroni, layered with a rich and aromatic meat sauce. This sauce, often made with ground beef or lamb, is infused with a blend of spices, herbs, and sometimes a hint of cinnamon, which adds a touch of warmth and complexity.
To assemble Pastitsio, the pasta and meat sauce are layered, forming a robust foundation. But the magic doesn’t stop there. A velvety béchamel sauce, made with butter, flour, milk, and eggs, is poured over the meat sauce, creating a luscious topping that turns golden and crispy in the oven. This trio of layers bakes together, resulting in a sumptuous amalgamation of flavors that will leave you craving for more.
Pastitsio is often enjoyed as a main course, served with a fresh green salad or some roasted vegetables on the side. The creamy texture and bold flavors make it a comforting meal that satisfies even the most discerning palates.
If you’re seeking a dish that effortlessly combines comfort, flavors, and a touch of Mediterranean magic, our authentic Pastitsio is the perfect choice. Its rich history, intricate layers, and mouthwatering taste make it a standout among Greek culinary treasures. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a novice in the kitchen, Pastitsio is a dish that invites you to explore Greek cuisine and experience a symphony of flavors that will transport you to the vibrant streets of Greece with every bite. So, gather your ingredients, preheat that oven, and prepare to savor the extraordinary delight that is Pastitsio. Enjoy!
- ¾ teaspoon table salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon plus ½ cup water divided
- 8 ounces 93 percent lean ground beef
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ½ cup finely chopped onion
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ cup red wine
- ⅓ cup tomato paste
Béchamel and Pasta
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 garlic clove minced
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- 4 cups whole milk
- 8 ounces 2½ cups ziti
- 4 ounces kasseri cheese shredded (1 cup), divided
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
FOR THE MEAT SAUCE:
- Mix salt, baking soda, and 1 tablespoon water in bowl. Add beef and toss until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
- Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic, cinnamon, oregano, mint, paprika, pepper flakes, and pepper and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomato paste, beef mixture, and remaining ½ cup water and cook, breaking up meat into pieces no larger than ¼ inch with wooden spoon, until beef has just lost its pink color, 3 to 5 minutes. Bring to simmer; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Off heat, season with salt to taste. (Meat sauce can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 3 days. Heat through before proceeding with step three.)
FOR THE BÉCHAMEL AND PASTA:
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with vegetable oil spray and place on rimmed baking sheet. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, garlic, salt, nutmeg, and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until golden and fragrant, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk and bring to boil. Add pasta and return to simmer, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. When mixture reaches simmer, cover and let stand off heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes (pasta will not be fully cooked).
- Using spider skimmer, transfer pasta to prepared dish, leaving excess béchamel in saucepan. Sprinkle ⅓ cup kasseri over pasta and stir to combine. Using spatula, gently press pasta into even layer. Add ⅓ cup kasseri to béchamel and whisk to combine. Whisk egg into béchamel. Spread meat sauce over pasta and, using spatula, spread into even layer. Top with béchamel. Sprinkle remaining ⅓ cup kasseri over béchamel. Bake until top of pastitsio is puffed and spotty brown, 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes. Serve.