Pastitsio

Pastitsio

KO’s Pastitsio is a recipe that draws on the cooking know how of three wonderful cooks – my cousin Sofia, my mum and our Greek teacher Kyria Kaiti. Sofia makes an oh-so-delicious moussaka. The meat sauce she makes for her moussaka has a gorgeous infusion of whole cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and bay leaves. The meat sauce is cooked for no more than an hour, so the spice flavours are balanced and heavenly and in no way overwhelmed by a heavy, overcooked tomato or meat flavour. This is the meat sauce I have used for KO’s Pastitsio. My mum’s contribution to the recipe is the structure of the pastitsio – the layers, the quantities and the addition of grated cheese to the bechamél sauce. Kyria Kaiti tried one of my earlier versions of the pastitsio and recommended an additional layer of béchamel on the base layer of pasta, which I added and it really works to give a lovely smooth and creamy eating feel to the pasta. My addition to the recipe is the use of casarecce pasta, a ‘tubular’ pasta, without the hollowness of a penne or rigatoni. I feel it adds to the eating experience of this classic and much loved Greek dish! Make it and try it now!

Ingredients

Ingredients
For the meat sauce
1 cup olive oil extra virgin (EVOO)
4 medium onions finely chopped (See ‘Key Points’ below)
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
1.2 kg beef mince full fat
1.2 kg canned diced tomato puréed
1/2 cup water
1 bunch parsley finely chopped
2 large sticks cinnamon
4 bay leaves
2 nutmegs whole
8 cloves whole
4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
For the pasta
1-1.2 kg casarecce pasta – boiled to just before ‘al dente’ and cooled
¼ cup olive oil extra virgin (EVOO)
2 egg whites beaten till frothy
200 g grated kefalotyri
For the béchamel sauce
2 litres milk full-cream
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks (left over from the pasta preparation)
225 g plain flour sifted
100 g salted butter
300 g kefalotyri finely grated
For the pastitsio topping
100 g kefalotyri grated
olive oil extra virgin (EVOO)

 

Preparation

Watch the full recipe video below. Subscribe to my YouTube channel by clicking the Subscribe link on the video

Preparing the meat sauce

  1. Sautée and lightly brown the onions and the garlic

  2. Add the beef mince and push down on it with a wooden spoon to help break it down into little pieces

  3. Continue mixing and pushing down on the mince meat, until it has all cooked through and all of it has broken down into small fragments

  4. Add the water to the empty tomato cans and/or food processor (if either used), swirl to release any remaining tomato residue and add the ‘tomatoey’ water to the pot

  5. Add the parsley, salt and pepper and mix in well

  6. Place the cloves and nutmeg in a closed tea strainer or bouquet-garni container. Place it in the pot and add the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves

  7. Simmer until all the water has reduced, leaving a layer of orange-hued oil on top - about an hour or so

  8. Remove the cinnamon, bay leaves and tea strainer from the pot just before using the meat sauce in the pastitsio


Preparing the pasta

  1. Combine the cooked casarecce with the EVOO and set aside to cool

  2. Once the pasta has cooled, add the beaten egg whites and the kefalotyri in turn and mix well with each addition

  3. Set aside


Preparing the béchamel sauce

  1. Place all ingredients in a pot on medium heat and stir continuously with a whisk, until all the flour is combined and the butter has melted

  2. Continue to heat and stir the sauce with a whisk until it thickens and shows the first signs of bubbling

  3. Remove from the heat and mix in the grated kefalotyri until it completely melts through


Assembling the pastitsio

  1. Place half of the pasta mixture evenly across the base of a large baking dish (my baking dish is 34cmL x 38cmW x 8cmD)

  2. Spoon approximately one third of the béchamel sauce evenly on top

  3. Depending on your preference, add all or almost all of the meat sauce and spread it evenly across the pan

  4. Add the remaining pasta evenly across the baking dish

  5. Pour the remaining béchamel sauce across the top of the baking dish

  6. Using the back of a spoon, spread the béchamel evenly across the top of the pastitsio

  7. Drizzle the top of the pastitsio sparingly with EVOO and generously top with finely grated kefalotyri


Baking the Pastitsio

  1. Bake the pastitsio at 200°C for approximately 30-40 minutes

  2. Keep an eye on the pastitsio as it bakes and place pieces of either baking paper or aluminium foil over the areas that brown

  3. Continue to do this until the entire pastitsio has browned on top


Serving the Pastitsio

  1. Allow the pastitsio to cool and set for 1-2 hours before serving

  2. If the pastitsio cools for longer, then reheat it covered at 180°C for approximately 30 minutes before serving

  3. Recipe makes 16-20 serves


 

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