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Pastitsio (Greek Pasta Casserole)

Pastitsio (Greek Pasta Casserole)

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Pastitsio is a layered Greek pasta casserole dish, made with tubular pasta, meat sauce and topped with bechamel sauce.  

In many parts of Greece and Cyprus, Pastitsio is also called “Makaronia tou Fournou” which means “oven baked pasta”.

I have posted the Cypriot recipe for Makaronia tou Fournou, in another post, because it is slightly different than the Greek recipe.

A slice of Pastitsio with salad photo

The name pastitsio comes from the Italian “pasticcio”, where in some parts of Italy is also called “Lasagne al Forno”, which again means “oven baked Lasagne”.  

Lasagna are made with a flat sheet of pasta which has its roots in ancient Greece.  

This pasta was called “Laganon” or “Lasanon” or “Lasana”.  Lasanon was a trivet or a stand for the pot.  The ancient Romans named it “lasanum”.  

They cooked this pasta in the “lasagnum” which later was named after this pot to Lasagna plural Lasagne.  

In Greece we still have an unleavened flatbread called “Lagana“.

There are a few variations of Pastitsio throughout the regions of Greece with a few minor different spices but typically the bottom layer is bucatini or other tubular pasta with cheese and egg as a binder, or sometimes with some béchamel cream. 

If we do not add the binder our pasta will not stick together but will spread in the plate during serving.

The second layer is a ground meat sauce (usually beef or veal in Greece, but it can also be substituted with pork, a mixture of veal and pork mince or chicken or turkey mince).

Grated fresh tomatoes (or canned during winter) are added to the sauce which is flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg (cloves and allspice are a few other spices used, depending on the region) and parsley.

On top of the meat sauce another layer of pasta is added and on top of  that a rich, creamy Béchamel sauce with grated myzithra, graviera, halloumi or other local cheese depending on the region.

Some of this cheeses is also mixed in the pasta as well as in the béchamel sauce and some is sprinkled on top together with a hint of nutmeg or other spices.

Prepare your pastitsio, at least an hour before serving, otherwise if you cut it immediately while it is still hot, the layers will fall apart. It needs some time to bind the pasta as well as the other layers.

When reheated, it does not fall apart but it is also good eaten the next day, t room temperature.

pastitsio with Greek salad image

Pastitsio (Greek Pasta Casserole)

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Pastitsio is a Greek baked pasta dish with meat sauce between two layers of tubular pasta and topped with bechamel sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 packet (500 grams) of tubular pasta No. 2 or No. 3 (bucatini)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup of grated graviera or myzithra cheese
  • A pinch of ground nutmeg

For the meat sauce:

  • 500 grams (1.10 lbs) ground beef or veal
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 red onion finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped (optional)
  • ½ cup of white dry wine
  • 3 ripe tomatoes peeled and blended (or 1 can 500 grams of whole tomatoes, blended)
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp powdered cinnamon or 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice (or 3 -4 berries)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup parsley, finely chopped

Béchamel sauce:

  • 1 litre milk (warmed up)
  • 50 grams extra virgin olive oil (or butter)
  • 50 grams all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs (reserve the 2 egg whites)
  • ½ tsp (or more) salt, (depending on the saltiness of cheese added)
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg or cinnamon
  • 1 cup grated graviera, halloumi, kefalotyri or dried myzithra cheese (you can also use pecorino or parmesan)

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a sautéing pan and sauté the onion until
    translucent. Add the garlic and mix for a few seconds. 
  2. Add the ground meat and sauté, stirring, until no longer pink. Deglaze with the wine and mix for 3 - 4 minutes until the alcohol evaporates.
    While mixing, add salt, pepper, cinnamon, allspice berries, bay leaf and tomatoes and cook over moderate heat for about 15 minutes or until the sauce reduces.
  3. Remove from the heat and discard the cinnamon, bay leaf and allspice berries, if used whole. 
  4. Mix in parsley and set aside.   When the béchamel is ready add a couple of tablespoons in the meat sauce and mix.
  5. Meantime, bring water to a boil, add salt and cook the pasta al dente, according to the package instructions.  Remove from the heat and cool the pasta under running water.  Drain, and wet the pasta with the olive oil.  When ready to use, beat the egg whites and add it to the pasta, together with the cheese and mix. You can also add a couple tablespoon of bechamel.
  6. Prepare the béchamel:  Before starting, heat the milk and beat the eggs.
  7. In a saucepan heat the olive oil and add the flour, salt and nutmeg and mix thoroughly using a whisk, until it starts to slightly brown and release its aroma.
  8. Remove from the heat and add the warm milk, stirring constantly.
  9. Add the whisked eggs gradually and put back on the heat.  Continue, mixing until the sauce becomes thick and creamy. Add half of the cheese and mix.
  10. Layer half of the pasta in a 35 x 30 cm / 14 x 12 inches baking tin.
  11. Pour the ground meat on top and spread it to cover the pasta.
  12. Add the remaining pasta on top and add the béchamel sauce to cover the pasta.
  13. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and sprinkle some nutmeg or cinnamon on top.
  14. Bake in a preheated oven to 180o C / 350o F or 160o C / 325oF for convection ovens, for about 45 minutes or until golden on top.  
  15. Let it cool before cutting into portions
Nutrition Information
Yield 8
Amount Per Serving Calories 650

Did you make this recipe?

Tried this recipe? Tag me @ivyliac and use the hashtag #kopiaste!

Other relevant recipes:

Makaronia tou Fournou

Pastitsio Nistisimo (Vegan)

Rome snapshots and Pastitsio ala Italika

Pastitsio Lasagna

Deconstructed Pastitsio with Paprika

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collage Pastitsio (Greek Pasta Casserole) photo

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tasteofbeirut

Sunday 6th of December 2009

My aunt and my father still speak of the pasticcio that their Greek cook used to make. It apparently had a phyllo crust which she made herself. I love your recipe but was wondering if you ever made it with phyllo dough on top?

ivyliac

Sunday 6th of December 2009

Joumana, I know which one you are referring to. I think this is a speciality of one of our islands, I think Corfu. Unfortunately I have not made it yet.

Ivy

Saturday 7th of June 2008

Thank you Kevin and good luck for your turn to host.

Kevin

Saturday 7th of June 2008

That pastitsio looks really tasty!

Ivy

Friday 6th of June 2008

Hi Lauren, thanks for passing by. The bechamel and the ground meat are similar to moussaka but the end result is totally different.

Lauren

Friday 6th of June 2008

This looks great- I will try this myself. Reminiscent of mousaka (sp?) but without the eggplant I have to be in the right mood for.

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