Prep Time  45minutes
Cook Time  60minutes
Total Time  105minutes

Pastisio

Growing up in my house, every November 19, was Pastisio night.  Why that day?  Well, that day is my birthday, and Pastisio was my absolute favorite.  And my saintly (of course saintly) Mom, always made it for me (despite at least one of my brothers hating it).  Not sure where the love of this Greek, casserole like, lasagna-ish, dish came from, but my mom had it in her cooking repertoire and I thought it was the best.  It is a great combo of pasta, a rich meat sauce, and creamy béchamel, that was super tasty to me then, and still is today.  I still make a Pastisio every few months, and while I’ve made some modifications to my Mom’s version, I’ve stayed pretty close to the original I had growing up.  Hope you enjoy it.

Recipe Overview & Keys to Success

Pastisio works really great as both a family meal, and for guests.   It’s hearty enough to feed a bunch of hungry kids, and I think it’s sophisticated enough (and off the beaten path) impress your guests.  Another great thing is that pastisio is very good prepared ahead of time.  You can easily put everything together up to a day before, and just finish it off in the oven with about an hour’s cooking time.  Just watch these few things:

  1. Cinnamon and nutmeg are key to this dish, but both are pretty strong spices.  You definitely need to use enough for them to be prominent, but you can overdo it, so taste as you go
  2. There’s pasta involved, so don’t overcook it.  Especially this dish, where we bake it in the oven after cooking the pasta; so it gets cooked again.  I make my pasta a little bit extra “al dente” for this dish
  3. I like the balance of pasta, meat and sauce to be about equal…but if anything, I err on the side of more meat and white sauce, as too much pasta will make the dish kind plain.
Ingredients for Pastisio (for a 15x9 baking dish – serves about 6)
  • ½ pound linguini
  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • 3/4 lb of ground lamb
  • 1 diced onion
  • 3 mined garlic cloves
  • 8 oz can of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh oregano (or one dried)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 clove of whole nutmeg and a grater (or 1 teaspoon pre-ground)
  • 1/3 cup of white wine
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup of parmesan cheese
  • ¼ to ½ gallon of whole milk or half and half
Make the Meat Sauce
  • In a large sauce pan, brown the beef and lamb (it’s ok to do them together)
  • Remove from the pan and drain off the excess fat
  • In the same pan, sauté the diced onion and garlic until soft and translucent
  • Add the tomato paste and the oregano.  Stir for 5 – 8 minutes until the tomato paste gets a rusty color to it
  • Add the meat back in, and toss to combine
  • Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and let the wine reduce until it’s almost gone
  • Add the cinnamon, and finely grate half a clove of nutmeg into the meat
  • Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine
  • The meat should be red from the tomato, and clearly be moist, but not a tomato sauce (all red and very wet).  If needed, add a bit more tomato pasta
  • Cover and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes (during this time you can cook the pasta and make the béchamel sauce)
  • After 30 minutes on low; taste the meat sauce
  • Add additional salt, pepper, nutmeg or cinnamon if needed
  • Remove from the heat and put into a mixing bowl to cool (if you stir it a few times, the meat will cool down more quickly)
  • After about 10 minutes, you can add two beaten eggs and stir to combine with the meat (this helps the meat stay together in the pastisio)
Cook the Pasta
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add in the linguini
  • Cook until just al dente, and drain from the water
  • Line a greased baking dish with the cooked pasta, about 1/3 up the side of the dish.  If you have too much pasta for your dish, use less, and have it for dinner the next day
Making the Béchamel Sauce (AKA white sauce)
  • You can watch me make a Bechamel sauce here; or simplified directions follow
  • Melt the butter in a large sauce pan; add the flour and stir to make a roux
  • Cook the roux for about 10 minutes
  • Slowly add the milk (or half and half) to the roux, stirring constantly to form the white sauce
  • Continue adding milk as the sauce comes to boil until the sauce becomes the consistency of very thick cream
  • Add half of the parmesan cheese and a few gratings of the fresh nutmeg; stir to combine
  • If your sauce is not thick enough; make some additional roux (or hold a bit back from your original batch), and repeat the process, adding the sauce to the newly made roux like you did the milk
Bringing it all Together
  • Once you have the pasta laid out in the baking dish
  • Add the meat sauce directly on top of the linguini in one consistent layer, again about 1/3 up the side of the baking dish (which will now be about 2/3’s full) (now if you have extra filling, you can make another pastisio, or freeze it to use later)
  • Once the meat is done, add the béchamel sauce as the final layer, which should now come up close to the top of the dish
  • Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese over the béchamel sauce
  • Put the dish into a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned

Like lasagna, pastisio is a dish that I like to have rest for 10 – 20 minutes after it comes out of the oven so that it can cool down a bit, and the layers can set.    Doing so makes it much easier to serve and to eat.  Because this is a “complete” dish with starch and protein all mixed together, I think it really just needs a simple green salad (possibly with some feta cheese) for the perfect meal.  Hope you enjoy it, and let me know how it goes.

Enjoy!!

Pastisio Recipe

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