This is one of those recipes that everyone should have in their arsenal of meals. It is DELICIOUS! While there are several steps and it takes a while to prepare, it is so worth it. Perfect for guests, a romantic dinner (with plenty of leftovers for later), or a meal to feed a crowd. This is one recipe you don’t want to miss.
Pastitsio is a Greek style of lasagna. It doesn’t contain all of the cheese in your typical lasagna, but you will not miss it because of all the flavors that are incorporated into it.
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork (veal is traditional but I didn’t have that on hand)
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
cayenne pepper, pinch
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes in puree
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 extra large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup Greek yogurt **
12 oz rigatoni pasta (or any other small shell/tubular pasta)
** If you don’t have Greek yogurt you can make your own. Greek yogurt is simply a drier yogurt than you normally buy. Place the required amount in a piece of cheesecloth over a strainer and let it sit for up to an hour. All the excess liquid will drain out and you have Greek yogurt.
Begin by adding 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a large frying pan. Add the onions and saute over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent but not browned.
Add the meats to the pan along with the onions. Continue cooking, breaking the meat apart with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink. Drain off the excess fat.
Combine the cinnamon, garlic, oregano, thyme, and cayenne pepper. Stir into the meat and cook for about 5 minutes. The aroma is amazing!
Add the wine and cook for 2-3 minutes to allow the alcohol to cook off.
Stir in the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and allow it to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Do not overcook because the pasta will continue cooking as it bakes. Drain and set aside.
Prepare the Bechamel Sauce. Heat the milk and cream in a medium sauce pot over medium-low heat until just simmering.
Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Incorporate the flour into the butter and cook for 2-3 minutes whisking constantly. Slowly add the warmed milk continuing to whisk as the milk is added. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mixture is smooth and thickens.
Add the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, and 1/2 cup of the meat sauce. Combine thoroughly. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the eggs and yogurt.
To assemble. Combine the pasta with the meat sauce and mix thoroughly. Place into a 9×13 baking pan. Spoon the bechamel sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for one hour. If it begins getting too brown, cover loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.
Allow the Pastitsio to sit for 10 minutes before cutting.
As you can see, some folks were hungry and dove right in without cutting the cute little squares. Guess what? It was just as good!