Pastitso


Pastitso is the Greek's version of lasagna. Instead of having lasagna sheets, the pastitso consist of 3 layers, the bottom layer being the pasta compressed and binded by cheese and eggs, the middle layer which is the meat sauce layer usually with tomato base sauce and the final layer of bechamel white sauce. Sometimes, a layer of breadcrumbs will be sprinkled on top to give it extra crunch for each mouthful.

The picture you see above is a frozen version of pastitso. This freezes really well and could be kept for weeks. However, it must be reheated back in the oven to achieve that crispy crust and soft gooey filling effect.


Recommended pasta would be small macaroni since they tend to be compressed easily due to the nature of their shape but as I've said before, I have issues with pasta so I've used small spiral here. You could also use penne, it's entirely up to you.

This make a lot. I cut mine into 6 large squares but this could easily serve 8 petite eaters. For the middle meat layer, I've used lamb mince here but you could also substitute that with chicken mince or a mixture of veal and pork mince. This is also a matter of preference. Lamb mince was on special in the supermarket so I basically just grab what I saw.

This is when it's just hot out of the oven. You'll need to bake it till it's golden brown before serving. The layers are prepared and are actually cooked before hand however this still require an hour of baking time.


Pastitso or sometimes spelt Pastitsio
Adapted from the Australian Women Weekly Cookbook, Winter edition
(serves 6 to 8 people, freezable, not microwavable)
Can be made a day ahead, keep covered in fridge and bake when needed


Start off by preheating oven to 180°C and grease a 10cup capacity deep casserole.

Pasta Base
250g uncooked macaroni
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup (60g) Parmesan cheese, shredded

Cook the macaroni according to package instructions until al dente.
Drain well and add the warm pasta to all other ingredients.
Stir to combine thoroughly and press over the base of the greased baking dish.

Meat Sauce Layer
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium (300g) brown onions, finely chopped
750g beef or lamb mince
1 egg, beaten

Combine together in a large jug the following:
1 can (400g) undrained diced tomatoes
1/3 cup (95g) tomato paste
1/2 cup beef stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
Dash of nutmeg powder

In a large non-stick pan, heat the olive oil until hot and add in the onions. Cook until onions are soft. Add in all the lamb mince and cook, stirring often until beef is brown. Here, a silicone whisk always works best for me in order to break up the lumps quickly. Pour in the jug of tomato mixture and stir well to coat meat. Simmer, uncovered until thick on medium heat. Cool the mixture for 10mins and stir in the beaten egg. Set aside to cool further.

Bechamel Sauce Topping
90g butter
1/2 cup plain flour (75g)
3.5 cups whole milk
1 cup (80g) Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 egg yolks

In a clean non-stick pot, melt the butter and add in the plain flour. Stir to form a paste, over low heat until bubbling and remove from heat. Add in the whole milk and stir over medium low heat until sauce boils and thickens and lump free (refer to the pasta bake, white sauce making here).
Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Stir until all melted and cool it for 5mins. Finally, stir in all the yolks and combine well.

Assembling:
1 stale square bread, processed in food processor until very fine (1/4 cup bread crumbs)

Now, pour all the almost cooled meat sauce on the pasta. If your pasta is pressed well, the sauce will not leak through to the pasta base layer. Smooth out the surface of the meat sauce and carefully pour over the bechamel sauce to cover the whole surface of casserole. Smooth that out as well. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs evenly and bake, uncovered, for about an hour or so, until lightly browned. Stand 10mins upon serving.

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