Pastitsio, my Dad's amazing – Greek Lasagna | Christine Cushing

My dad Tony’s Pastitsio recipe is the most prized in our family. I share with you his step by step method from how to get the most flavour out of the meat sauce to a creamy bechamel and all his tips and tricks in between. This is also known as Greek lasagna and a Greek gathering cannot be complete without it. FULL RECIPE BELOW.

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¼ cup olive oil (60 ml), divided
1¾ -pounds lean ground beef (800g)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried Greek oregano (5 ml)
½ cup dry red wine (125 ml)
28-ounce can plum tomatoes with juice, 800 gm
2 Tbsp. tomato paste (25 ml)
1 cup water (250 ml),optional to adjust thickness of sauce
½ tsp. ground cinnamon (2.5 ml)
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch allspice ground
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

1-pound Pastitsio pasta or bucatini (454 g)

½ cup butter (105 gm)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. flour ( 105 gm )
4 ½ cups homogenized or 2 % milk (1.2 L)
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup freshly grated kefalotyri or Parmesan (125 ml) , divided
2 whole eggs separated + 2 yolks, lightly beaten

In a large skillet, heat ½ the olive oil on medium high heat. Add the beef and cook for 20-22 minutes or until meat is well browned. Make a well in centre of meat and add the onion and sweat until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.. Add the garlic and stir to blend.

Deglaze the pan with the red wine and add the herbs, spices and tomatoes and paste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 40 to 45 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Adjust with a bit of water , if too thick and check seasoning. Set aside ½ cup sauce for the pasta.

Cook pasta in a large pot of rolling boiling salted water for about 7-8 minutes or until al dente. Drain pasta, and toss it with the reserved meat sauce in a large bowl. Drizzle with other half of olive oil. When pasta has cooled slightly, whisk the 2 egg whites and toss into past along with a handful of the grated cheese.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until smooth. Remove pot from heat and add cold milk in very small batches whisking each time until smooth. Return to heat and whisk constantly on medium heat until mixture boils and thickens, about 4 to 5 minutes. Season the béchamel with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Remove from heat and stir in grated cheese. Temper the yolks by adding a bit of the hot béchamel into bowl and whisking thoroughly. Gradually add this mixture into béchamel , stirring briskly to prevent curdling them.

Oil a 13x9x3-inch deep baking dish and pour in the pasta mixture. Ladle in the remaining meat sauce making an even layer on top of pasta. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350-375 D F

Pour the béchamel over the pasta and cover evenly. Bake at 375 D F until top is golden brown and set, about 45- 50 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 at halfway mark if browning too much. Let stand about 45-60 minutes before serving.

Serves 10

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