I fell in love with Pastitsio (essentially Greek lasagna) the first time I had it. A baked casserole of tube pasta with spiced lamb ragù and creamy, rich béchamel — a sort of divine Bolognese-mac 'n cheese hybrid. The thing is, between the two sauces, assembly, and 45-minute bake time, it's a pretty labor-intensive dish (especially for a weeknight).
So, with apologies to any arbiters of authenticity, I present my slightly simpler, no-bake rendition.
Click here to see 9 Divine Greek Recipes.
For the meat sauce and pasta:
- ½ yellow onion, finely diced
- Olive oil
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup dry red wine
- Salt, to taste
- 1 pound tube pasta
- Pepper, to taste
- Breadcrumbs, preferably panko, for topping
- Chopped parsley, for garnish
For the béchamel:
- 1 stick of butter
- ½ cup of flour
- 2 cups whole milk, warmed
- 4 egg yolks
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Pepper, to taste
- Pinch of nutmeg
For the meat sauce and pasta:
In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the onions with a drizzle of olive oil for a few minutes until they begin to become transluscent. Add in the ground lamb and spices and mix well to integrate. Once the meat is cooked through, add the tomatoes and wine and reduce heat to medium low and let the sauce simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
While the sauce is cooking, put a pot of salted water on to boil. When the meat sauce is about ready, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and add to meat sauce and mix well to make sure the sauce is fully integrated.
For the béchamel:
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Once ready, whisk in the flour until there are no lumps, and let it cook for a minute or 2. Next, pour in the warmed milk in a continuous stream, whisking all the while. Let the sauce simmer until it thickens, stirring regularly and taking care to make sure it doesn't boil.
Add the egg yolks to a mixing bowl, pour in the white sauce and whisk. Add in the cheese, pepper, and nutmeg. It should have the consistency of a white gravy, thick to where it sticks to a spoon but still a little loose.
To serve, plate the sauced pasta, top with a spoonful of béchamel, and finish with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs and parsley.
Rally’s Pastitsio recipe
Winter is on Australia’s doorstep and there’s nothing better than digging into a hot, delicious comforting meal on a chilly day.
This Greek classic is a staple dish in many households, but if you need some extra pointers on to how to perfect those layers, our resident home cook Rally has got you covered.
One thing Rally notes to be mindful of is when making the bechamel sauce, make sure you stick to the exact measurements. This will ensure that the sauce comes out with the right consistency and taste.
1kg penne pasta/tubed pasta
1kg beef mince
500gr pork mince
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 large celery stick, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 can chopped tomato
1 litre beef or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
250ml red wine
1 tsp sugar
1.5 litre milk
150gr salted butter
150gr plain flour
- In a large pot over medium heat, sauté onion, carrot and celery
- Once onion becomes translucent, add the mince, breaking it up and allow it to brown
- Season with salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg to your liking
- Add the can of diced tomatoes and passata
- Sprinkle in sugar
- Add beef stock, reduce head to low and let it cook slowly for 2-3 hours
- Cook pasta until al dente/ as to be still firm when bitten
- In another pot, melt the butter over low-medium heat
- Add flour to make roux and mix it in with a whisk, careful not to burn it
- Season to your liking with salt, pepper and nutmeg
- Add the milk slowly and whisk quickly to avoid lumps until it thickens
- Remove from heat and sit the pot in your sink filled with cold water to cool quicker
- As it cools, lightly whisk eggs in a small bowl. Add it to the bechamel mixture and whisk
- Stir in a handful of parmesan
- Place layer of pasta in baking dish
- Add layer of mince
- Add the final layer of pasta on top of the mince
- Pour bechamel sauce over pasta and even out with a spatula or wooden spoon
- Sprinkle with parmesan and nutmeg
- Bake at 175 degrees celsius until the top turns golden brown
- Remove from oven, set aside to cool for 20 minutes to make it easier to remove pieces.
Ready to make its way into the over Photo: NK
How do you make Pastitsio?
It’s layered just like traditional Italian lasagna. The layers are as follows: noodles tossed in egg are topped with Greek cheese.
A generous layer of meat sauce makes up the next layer.
Then, more noodles and cheese!
On top is the final layer of the bechamel sauce and more cheese!
It’s baked for 40 to 45 minutes, blending all of those layers together to create a fabulous meal.
The best tip I received about making Pastitsio is to make it early in the morning (or the night before), and then warm up individual slices when ready to eat. You certainly don’t have to make it this way, just know that the pasta dish will be more “loose” and will not likely cut into neat squares as you see in the photos here.
It will be tremendously delicious either way you decide to make it!
I do love how the layers are clearly seen in the slices. They’re a little mesmerizing.
My family LOVES, LOVES, LOVES this recipe. The bechamel sauce is a welcome change over the usual marinara, the hint of cinnamon in the meat layer is an interesting addition, and the Greek cheese connecting all of the layers is delicious! Authentic Greek recipes are the absolute best!
If you enjoy Greek recipes, you might also like my Greek Spinach Pie or my Greek Butter Cookies. You definitely have to try making Greek Tzatziki too!
Pastitsio Recipe (Greek Pasta Bake)
Nothing speaks family dinner better than Pastitsio! You may also know it as Greek pasta bake, and you know that this is the food to serve whenever you want your loved ones to sit around the table and offer them a hearty and cozy dinner, a dinner that will warm their hearts and fill their bellies.
Guys, there aren’t enough words to describe this recipe! The pasta at the bottom creates the perfect “bed” for the spiced meat sauce to rest upon, while the silky béchamel sauce coats the whole casserole like a warm and fluffy blanket resulting in a dish with layers of different flavors and textures.
It’s almost impossible for anyone not to fall in love with recipe (can you tell how much I love it?)
Another good thing of this recipe is that it freezes very well. You can freeze it either unbaked, or bake it first and then freeze some individual slices. Either way, the best way to thaw it is leaving it overnight in the fridge. You can bake the thawed Pastitsio according to the recipe directions and you can warm the baked, individual slices in the microwaves.
Its only downside is that it needs some preparation (this is definitely not a 30-minute meal), but with some good scheduling you won’t have any problems and the end result will definitely reward you.
What type of pasta should I use for Pastitsio?
Thick bucattini pasta, also known as Pastitsio pasta No 2 in Greece, is traditionally used for this recipe. It’s like long and thick spaghetti with a hole in the middle, and except for Pastitsio, you can also use them in recipes with thick sauces, like this whole chicken cacciatore stew. If you can’t find it, your next best option is penne pasta.
Cook the pasta al dente, meaning it should be fully cooked but not mushy. When you bite it, you should be able to feel some resistance.
Flavor the pasta with some grated cheese. Cheese will also act as a glue and will bind the pasta together, holding each piece intact for prettier serving.
What is the meat sauce for Pastitsio?
The basic ingredient for the meat sauce is beef. This sauce is much like this mom’s Bolognese sauce for pasta but it’s usually made with less tomato and not all the spices.
Also, it should not have too much moisture, so you’ll have to simmer it slowly until almost all of the liquids are evaporated. Something my mom does when she is in a hurry and the sauce is not fully ready yet, is to add a tablespoon or two of ground rusks, to absorb the extra liquids.
Inevitably, you’ll have some moisture which, during baking, will drip down and give extra flavor (and some color) to the pasta.
THE BECHAMEL SAUCE
I like to make my béchamel with olive oil (a big sorry to my French friends) but you can also make it with butter. Make sure to cook the flour with the oil until it starts to smell nutty. This will give extra flavor to your sauce.
Also, the Bechamel should be pourable, and not thick like plaster! A general rule for the best texture is to use 1 liter ( litre ) milk for every 100 grams of flour.
Lumpy Béchamel sauce? Never again!
There are many ways you could make a silky béchamel. Some people like to add the milk cold and all at once. What works for me is to use warm or room temperature milk (because the béchamel cooks faster this way) and to remove the pan from the heat before adding the milk, because if the béchamel cooks too fast it can create lumps. Then, I start adding the milk gradually, whisking constantly, until a smooth mixture is formed. I return to the heat and cook, whisking constantly, until it starts to bubble.
Note that you can’t make béchamel sauce for Pastitsio without adding some nutmeg! Also, some eggs are used for the best texture and some grated cheese for extra taste.
**For this recipe, it is best to measure the flour by weight, using a kitchen scale. If you don’t have a scale the right way to measure the flour with a cup according to Kingarthurflour.com is to use a spoon and fluff up the flour inside the container/bag it is stored, then sprinkle it into your dry-cup measure (the one that measures exactly a cup at the top) and scrape off the excess with a straight edge.
THE PASTITSIO RATIO
I guess everyone has his own preferences, but for me the ideal ratio for the best Pastitsio is for the pasta, the meat sauce, and the béchamel sauce to have approximately the same height. If something can be taller, then that would be the pasta.
The layers: you can divide the pasta into two layers, but I prefer to use almost all of them in one bottom layer, like you see in the photos.
- Sauté the minced meat in a wide pan, and let it brown very well before stirring. You will gain extra flavor!
- If you can’t find pasta for Pastitsio, use penne.
- Cook the pasta al dente. That doesn’t mean it should be undercooked, but firm to the tooth.
- Cook the flour with the oil until it starts to smell nutty. This gives flavor and eliminates the flour-y smell the béchamel can sometimes have.
Share this post if you liked it (share buttons at the top!) and don’t forget to subscribe for new recipes or follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook
You can find this Pastitsio Pasta No 2 on amazon and a Pack of 5 Misko #2 Pasta (but the pack of 5 is more expensive).
Ingredients You Need for This Pastitsio Recipe
For the Pasta Layer:
- Bucatini pasta – or penne pasta
- Egg whites – with yolks reserved
- Feta cheese – crumbled
- Shredded Italian blend cheese – divided
To make the Meat Sauce:
- Butter – unsalted
- Onion – peeled and chopped
- Garlic – minced
- Ground beef – we suggest a lean beef, such as 90-95%
- Spices – ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, salt and pepper
- Tomato sauce – canned
For the Bechamel:
- Butter – unsalted
- All-purpose flour
- Milk – whole milk is best
- Egg yolks – reserved from the making the pasta layer
- Seasonings – salt and ground nutmeg
One of Greece’s favorite meals, pastitsio (παστίτσιο pastítsio), is an oven-baked dish made from pasta, minced meat, and béchamel sauce. It is a variation of the Italian dish, pasticcio di pasta, and of the Cypriot dish, makaronia tou fournou.
In Greece, the pasta used for this dish is called, “special pasta for pastitsio”. It’s a long, hollow and tubular pasta, around 2½ inches (6cm) in length, similar to macaroni. Longer types of macaroni are also used, almost the length of spaghetti, similar to Italian ziti or bucatini.
Layers of pasta and minced meat are drizzled with béchamel sauce and sprinkled with a grated Greek cheese called kefalotyri. The meat, according to different recipes, can be beef, pork, lamb or a mixture.
What is kefalotyri?
Kefalotyri or kefalotiri (κεφαλοτύρι) is a hard salty cheese made from unpasteurized goat’s or sheep’s milk, that’s produced in Greece and Cyprus. Depending on the amount of milk, its color may vary from yellow to white.
Sometimes a similar cheese, graviera or kefalograviera, also made from sheep’s and / or goat’s milk, is sold outside Greece and Cyprus as kefalotiri. Kefalotyri is strewn with holes like Gruyère.
Since its name comes from the word kephale which means “head”, it is shaped like a ball. This hard cheese has a strong flavor and a dry texture. It is traditionally served fried in strips or cubes, called saganaki.
It is also used as a grating cheese on pasta, salads and pizzas. The cheese is usually aged a year, so the flavor is quite strong, similar to Romano cheese.
Kefalotyri is to Greece what Parmesan is to Italy.
What is the origin of pastitsio?
The name of the pastitsio dish comes from the Italian word, pasticcio, which in turn is derived from the vulgar Latin word, pasticium which means “gratin” or “pie”.
Pasticcio is the traditional name for various preparations made from different ingredients, usually enclosed in a dough and then baked in the oven.
Pasticcio is mentioned in the de re coquinaria of Apicius, a figure of Roman high society. De re coquinaria, also called “the art of cooking”, is the name given to a compilation of Roman culinary recipes in ten books at the end of the 4th century.
In the fourteenth and fifteenth century recipe books, pasticcio appears in several varieties: based on meat, game, fish, shellfish, fruit.
Pasticcio has always been considered a prestigious meal, which is often featured in high profile dinners.
The pasticcio experienced over the following centuries other developments and free interpretations, such as the Greek pastitsio, while retaining its character as a prestigious dish prepared for elegant banquets.
Today, in various forms, pasticcio has remained in some regional Italian cuisines almost as a symbol of continuity with the great cuisine of the Renaissance.
The original Greek recipes for pastitsio describe the dish as stale bread covered in a spicy meat sauce. The dish is a Greek variation of Italian lasagna, and is common in Greek cuisine.
Greek pastitsio, as it is cooked today, was invented by French-trained chef Nikolaos Tselementes (1878 – 1958). He is also the author of Greece’s most popular cookbook, “Greek Cookery”, published in 1910.
Tselementes was a luminary in the world of cooking and a modernizer of traditional Greek cuisine, and thanks to him Greek housewives learned béchamel, piroski (pirojkis) and bouillabaisse. His name is now synonymous with cooking guides, and is also used as a joke for someone who knows how to cook very well.
A traditional pastitsio, according to Tselementes, should contain ground beef, onions, bucatini pasta, béchamel sauce, tomatoes, spices, and kefalotiri cheese.
Before him, pastitsio consisted of dough, liver, meat, eggs and cheese. It did not include béchamel sauce, and was wrapped in filo leaves. He completely changed the dish and made it into a kind of gratin.
Variants of pastitsio
The Egyptian version of pastitsio or pasticcio is called (مكارونا بيشاميل) macarona bechamel in Egyptian Arabic, meaning “béchamel macaroni”. The dish is usually composed of pasta, penne or macaroni, a minced meat sauce with tomato and onion, and a white sauce often enriched with Rumi cheese, a cow or buffalo milk cheese originally from Egypt. Eggs or cheese can also be cooked on top.
In Malta, timpana is made up of penne or macaroni, as well as layers of minced meat, bacon, egg white, grated cheese, all flavored with onions and garlic.
Traditional additions are also liver and broth, and in newer versions more vegetables are added, such as eggplant and zucchini. A layer of dough is placed on top, creating a crispy crust. Sometimes hard- or soft-boiled eggs and / or mutton brains are added.
In Cyprus, makaronia tou fournou is a staple at weddings and celebrations such as Easter, where it is served with spit-roasted meat.
There are two main differences between makaronia tou fournou and pastitsio…
- adding dried mint and tomato to the meat sauce
- the addition of halloumi, a traditional Cypriot cheese, that is sprinkled on top of the dish to make a gratin.
Furthermore, pork is usually preferred to beef, veal or lamb in the Cypriot version, although the dish is often made with a mixture of pork and beef or veal.
Sauté the ground beef, onion and garlic in ¼ cup of butter until browned.
Add salt, pepper, parsley and stir for a few minutes.
Add tomato and stir for a few minutes, then the wine.
Cook on medium heat for about an hour, or until sauce is thick and no water remains. When the sauce is cooked, add a a handful of the shredded cheese to the mixture and stir.
At the same time, in a separate pot, boil the water for the pasta with a little salt.
At the same time, prepare the béchamel. In a small bowl, mix together softened butter and flour, salt and pepper until a nice consistency.
Add 3 cups of milk to sauce pan and cook on low heat. Slowly add the flour/butter mixture and stir to remove clumps. Then, add eggs, one by one, stirring well after each addition. Keep stirring on low heat until the sauce thickens.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain and place back into pot. Add the remaining ¼ cup of butter and mix with the pasta, along with 1 cup of milk, and a handful of the grated cheese.
Once the sauce is cooked, remove the bay leaves, cinnamon and cloves. Add a handful of the grated cheese and stir.
In a large round roasting pan, add half of the pasta. Then, add a layer of the beef mixture. Add the remaining pasta on top. Then, add the béchamel sauce to the top. Add a little more cheese, and a few pats of butter to the top.
Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until brown.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 white onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 2 pounds ground lamb
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 cups water
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
- Unsalted butter, for baking dish
- 1 pound curly elbow macaroni
Make the sauce: In a large deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, and cook until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add lamb, salt, cinnamon, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook, breaking lamb into pieces, until it is no longer pink. Add wine, and cook until liquid is almost evaporated. Stir in tomato paste, bay leaves, and 2 cups water. Cover, and let simmer 30 minutes, skimming the fat occasionally. Remove from heat, and set aside, covered.
Make the bechamel: In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. When butter is bubbling, add flour and baking powder. Cook, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, for 1 minute. While whisking, slowly pour in milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick. Remove pan from heat, and stir in Parmesan, salt, black pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Set aside, covered, until ready to assemble.
To assemble: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch glass or other ovenproof baking dish set aside. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add pasta cook until very al dente, 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a colander drain well. Stir noodles into meat mixture. Pour meat-and-pasta mixture into prepared pan. Spread bechamel over the mixture, and bake until top is set and golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.
What is Pastitsio?
Greek Pastitsio (sometimes spelt pastichio) is a layered baked dish consisting of tubular pasta, meat sauce and bechamel sauce.
The pasta, which is mixed with egg white and cheese to bind it together is topped with a rich meat sauce then with creamy bechamel.
You may find some recipes suggesting lamb as the meat but, while lamb is a popular meat in Greece, many authentic pastitsio recipes say it should only use beef.
Feel free to use your preference when it comes to the meat. I’ve tried with a ratio of 1:1 lamb and beef but I much prefer this beef version.
I’ve changed a few ingredients from the traditional recipe, mainly so that you don’t need to go running out to specialty stores to find the right Greek cheese and tube pasta. This simplified version uses parmesan and penne.
Easy Tiramisu Recipe (Prepare In just 10 Minutes)
The perfect tiramisu recipe to pair up with your coffee or serve as a delicious evening dessert.
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature (see substitute idea below)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon Amaretto liquor or Brandy (optional but yummy!)
- 1 and 1/2 cups espresso or STRONG coffee at room temperature - sweetened if desired
- 1 package Lady Fingers (such as the Savoiardi brand found in cookie isle)
- Cocoa powder for dusting the top
- 1 cup Mascarpone Cheese Substitution: Cream together 6 oz. softened cream cheese, 2 Tablespoons sour cream, and 3 Tablespoons heavy cream
Beat whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla until stiff peaks form in a medium bowl.
Stir in mascarpone cheese and amaretto.
Dip lady fingers in coffee and place in an 8x8 pan to make the first layer - you can fit about 7 cookies in each layer.
Spread half of the whipped cream mixture on top of first layer of lady fingers. Repeat process with second layer of lady fingers and cream mixture.
Dust the top of dessert with cocoa powder using a sifter or hand held kitchen strainer tool.
Refrigerate for about 4-8 hours, it gets even better in the fridge and is a perfect make-ahead dessert. Serves about 6.
Hip Tip: Do not make the mistake of soaking ladyfingers too long in the coffee because they will get mushy and fall apart. If you are serving a crowd, you can easily double this recipe and place in a larger 9×13 baking dish.
I&rsquove made this recipe twice, love this recipe! If you enjoy drinking your coffee a little sweetened, then consider sweetening the coffee.