Pastitsio is the kind of Greek food if you had to describe it as an act would be a “good old bear hug”. It’s a fussy dish that can wreck havoc in your kitchen when you make it, especially if you are not an organized cook. But the end result is SO rewarding with your fork cutting through the layers of rich béchamel sauce, beef ragù and tender pasta creating the perfect bite. It’s the epitome of Greek comfort food. Like the Ancient Greeks used to say: Go big or go home. 😉
Pastitsio has layers of creamy rich béchamel sauce, a heartwarming beef ragù sauce and pasta. Traditionally a hollow “fat” noodle is used that is a perfect vehicle for sauces and serves as a great base for baked casseroles like macaroni and cheese. I use LOI pasta or MISKO No 5. You can definitely substitute the macaroni pasta with penne in a pinch.
I love to use some pancetta or bacon win my ragù. I also add, apart from onions, diced carrots & celery and fresh herbs. The white sauce is a classic thicker béchamel. Sometimes Greek cooks like to add eggs to their béchamel, I choose not to. I instead add 2 eggs beaten with fresh herbs and some crumbled feta on top of the pasta when I layer the dish.
Pastitsio is a lovely representation of Greek comfort food. I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as we do!Print
Lovely Greek pastitsio-pasta bake with layers of pasta, beef ragu sauce and béchamel sauce.
for the beef ragù
- 1 lb ground grass fed beef
- 3 oz uncured pancetta, roughly chopped
- 1 red onion diced
- 3 medium carrots diced
- 2 celery sticks diced
- a handful fresh thyme leaves roughly chopped
- a handful fresh oregano roughly chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 13 oz chopped tomatoes (I used KYKNOS Greek tomatoes)
- 1 bouillon cube (whatever you have handy, I sometimes even use BOU chicken bouillon or vegetable)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup red wine (white will work as well)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp ground nutmeg
- 3–4 cloves
- 1 tbsp dry oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- fresh ground pepper
for the béchamel sauce
- 3.5 cups whole milk
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tbsp ground nutmeg
- sea salt
- fresh ground pepper
for the pasta
make the beef ragù
- Place a medium pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the pancetta. Cook pancetta until lightly crispy but still soft. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Add the onions in same pan. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, until the onions caramelize nicely. Add the garlic. Add the carrots & celery, bouillon cube and 1/2 cup water. Stir well. and sauté for 2-3 min.
- Add tomato paste, the bay leaf, cloves and dry oregano. Season lightly with salt, fresh ground pepper. Stir and keep sautéing for at least 2 minutes.
- Add the ground meat. Break it up gently with a wooden spoon and brown all over. Add the wine. Stir well and increase heat a little bit and let alcohol evaporate and liquids reduce for 2-3 min.
- Add the chopped tomatoes. and the nutmeg. Add the fresh herbs. Stir everything together gently. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until sauce reduces and the meat is cooked. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove from heat and set aside until needed.
make the béchamel sauce
- Heat the butter in a pot over medium heat. As soon as it melts, start adding the flour gradually while beating with a hand whisk continuously.
- Add milk while whisking to avoid any lumps forming. As you add more of the milk, the béchamel sauce will become more creamy than thick. When you feel it’s ready, remove from heat and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and almost all of the grated parmesan. Save a little cheese for the end.
- Set aside until needed.
make the pasta
- Cook the pasta all dente.
- When the pasta is ready, drain well and return to the pot. Add 1 tbsp butter and stir well. Butter will help pasta from not sticking together. Let pasta cool a little to be able to handle with your hands.
- Lightly beat the 2 eggs, add the chopped thyme and crumbled feta cheese and mix well.
- Spread the pasta in the pan as evenly as straight as possible. If you are using penne don’t worry about that part.
- Spread egg mixture all over the pasta, make sure it goes all over from side to side.
- Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Spread the beef ragù evenly all over the pasta.
- Pour the béchamel evenly over the ragù. Sprinkle the reserved grated cheese all over the top.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until top turns golden brown.
- Let it sit for 30 min before serving.
- Pair it with a simple green salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing or go all the way with a blue cheese salad extravaganza.
about the béchamel
I always keep more milk and flour around than I might actually need just in case an adjustment in the thickness of the sauce is needed.