Pastitsio is one of my new favorite dishes! I watched Ina Garten make this for a special garden dinner with her husband on the Food Network and I knew I needed try it. Pastitsio is a Greek baked pasta dish with ground meat topped with a béchamel sauce. It is amazing! I will warn you that this dish does take some time to put together and uses LOTS of pots, pans, and bowls, but it is so worth it!
Because Pastitsio takes so much time to make, I have only made it twice for very special birthday celebrations! This recipe calls for lamb and beef, which is amazing, but if you aren’t a fan of lamb, just substitute with more beef or ground turkey.
Recipe from Ina Garten
For the Tomato Meat Sauce:
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean ground lamb
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 large cloves)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes in puree
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Bechamel:
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan or Kasseri cheese
2 extra-large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup Greek-style yogurt, such as Fage Total
3/4 pound small shells
For the sauce, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add the beef and lamb, and saute over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until it's no longer pink, crumbling it with the back of wooden spoon. Drain off any excess liquid, add the wine, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, and cayenne, and continue cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 45 minutes. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the bechamel, heat the milk and cream together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until simmering. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Pour the warm milk and cream mixture into the butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until smooth and thick. Add the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Stir in 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of the tomato and meat sauce, and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the eggs and yogurt and set aside.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Don't over-cook because the pasta will later be baked. Drain and set aside.