Greek Pastitsio Recipe-Beef Pasta Bake is our answer to lasagna! It is a delicious classic comfort dish with layers of creamy, rich white sauce, a heartwarming beef ragù sauce, and tubular “fat spaghetti” pasta. This Greek beef pasta bake recipe is the epitome of Greek comfort food. And like the Ancient Greeks used to say: Go big or go home.

If you love our Pastitsio, you will also love MoussakaPapoutsakia or Eggplant Lasagna!

Pastitsio, Greek pasta bake in a pan with a couple pieces taken out and a serving utensil in the pan.

Why this recipe sings

  • It is delicious. Pastitsio can be called the Greek lasagna due to the similarities between the two dishes. It has creamy, rich béchamel sauce layers, a heartwarming beef ragù sauce, and pasta.
  • It is the ultimate comfort food. Pastitsio (or pastichio) is the kind of food if you had to describe it as an act, would be a “good old bear hug.”
  • It is Greek food in its best form. This beef pasta bake and his sister dish moussaka are classic Greek food at its best. Yes, it’s a fussy dish that can wreak havoc in your kitchen when you make it, especially if you are not an organized cook. But the result is SO rewarding, with your fork cutting through the layers of rich béchamel sauce, beef ragù, and tender pasta, creating the perfect bite. 

Here is what you need

for the meat sauce and pasta

Ingredients to make pastitsio on a wood board.
  • Long tubular pasta. The tubular “fat” pasta noodle used for pastitsio is a perfect vehicle for sauces and an excellent base for pasta-baked casseroles. In the USA, you can find pastitsio LOI pasta in many supermarkets. Greek pasta like Melissa or MISKO No 5 are available in Greek markets. Feel free to substitute with penne or rigatoni. Both will work just fine.
  • Ground beef.
  • Onion.
  • Tomatoes and tomato paste. My go-to tomatoes are authentic San Marzano.
  • Kefalotiri cheese. Grated. This is a salty, hard cheese Greeks use with pasta. You can also use pecorino Romano.
  • Extra virgin olive oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, sea salt and freshly ground pepper

for the white sauce

Milk, eggs, flour, a bay leaf, sea salt and grated gruyere cheese on a wood board.
  • Butter
  • All-purpose flour
  • Whole milk.
  • Bay leaf.
  • Gruyere cheese grated
  • Egg yolks from medium size eggs
  • Ground nutmeg and sea salt

How to make this pastitsio

Ground beef browning in a skillet.

Make the beef ragu

Place a wide large skillet on the stove over high, without any oil, on a. When skillet is hot add the ground meat. Using a wooden spoon, beak the meat as it browns. Brown while breaking and stirring constantly for 5-6 minutes, until the ground beef is well browned all over.

Ground beef and a dollop of tomato paste browning in a skillet.

Add the onion, and olive oil to the skillet and continue sautéing for another 1-2 minutes. 

Ground beef, diced onion and tomato paste browning in a skillet.

Add the tomato paste and stir. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Scrape the burnt bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon as you stir. 

Meat sauce in a skillet with oregano leaves.

Add the tomatoes and stir. Add some fresh oregano leaves. Lower the heat and cook the beef for about 30 minutes, until it’s tender and all its juices have been evaporated. 

Meat sauce in a skillet with a wooden spoon.

Leave the meat to cool. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Make the pasta

Tubular thick spaghetti and a hand holding a pair of scissors cutting it

Boil the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water for 8 minutes, until tender. Drain pasta well and place it back in the pot. Add on the butter and toss.

With kitchen scissors, cut the pasta here and there into smaller pieces, so that they are not too long. 

Tubular thick spaghetti with grated cheese in a pan.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of kefalotiri cheese and toss pasta.

Make the white sauce

Milk and a bay leaf in a pot

Heat the milk slowly in a saucepan with the fresh bay leaf. 

Milk poured on a roux and a hand with a whisk.

Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a deep saucepan. Pour in the flour all together and continue to mix on medium to low heat. 

Continue stirring for 3-4 minutes on low heat to cook the flour without darkening.

Pour in the milk and the bay leaf. Increase the heat a little and continue stirring nonstop to gradually dissolve the lumps that form. You can’t avoid lumps; they will dissolve with continuous stirring. It doesn’t need to be perfect, do the best you can.

White sauce, ground nutmeg and a whisk.

Add the nutmeg. Simmer the sauce over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring often. It will thicken. 

Grated cheese poured in a white sauce and a whisk.

Add the gruyere cheese and immediately remove the sauce from the heat. Stir again well.  

Poring a yolk in white sauce and a whisk.

Throw in the yolks and continue mixing with the whisk. 

Assemble

  • Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F.
Greed cheese in meat sauce with a wooden spoon.

Right before assembling add ½ cup of grated kefalotiri cheese in the meat sauce and stir.

White sauce poured on pasta and meat sauce.

Lay the pasta in a rectangular lasagna pan.

Layer all the meat sauce on top of the pasta. 

Finally, pour the béchamel on top and smooth the surface with a spatula.

The top of pastitsio, with white sauce, grated cheese and breadcrumbs, ready for the oven

Top pastitsio with the breadcrumbs and grated gruyere cheese.

Bake the pastitsio for about 60 minutes, until it forms a smooth and golden crust on top.

Pastitsio casserole with pieces taken out of the pan.

Let it cool for 15 minutes at least and serve.

A piece of pastitsio in a yellow plate with a fork with a bite of the casserole.

What to serve with pastitsio

Pastitsio is a rich, hearty dish and pairs well with a leafy green salad like our maroulosalata. Add a couple of slices of warm bread with dipping olive oil, marinated olives with feta and you are all set for an unforgettable meal.

Helpful Q&A

Can I store the béchamel/white sauce?

You can refrigerate it for up to three days. It must be covered with a transparent film on the surface of the sauce so that it does not form a crust.

How can I avoid my white sauce from lumping?

You can’t avoid lumps forming from the flour. Whisking constantly helps dissolve the lumps. If you’re a perfectionist, pass the white sauce through a fine sieve, pressing it with a wooden spoon so that the tiniest clumps of flour don’t remain.

What is a tubular pasta?

Tubular pasta is hollow through the center, like a tube. It comes in many different sizes and shapes. For authentic pastitsio, you need long tubular pasta. Buccattini is a tubular pasta, but the hole is smaller than that of Greek pastitsio pasta. You can also use rigatoni or penne with good results.

Can I refrigerate pastitsio?

Yes, you can. Refrigerate already cooked pastitsio for up to three days. Freeze individual pieces in freezer-friendly containers for easier reheating.

Can I freeze pastitsio?

Yes! Pastitsio freezes and reheats beautifully.
You can assemble and freeze it uncooked or bake it and then freeze it. Consume within three months, not longer.
For uncooked pastitsio: Assemble as directed and wrap the baking pan tightly with heavy-duty foil. Make sure to label and date the foil. Consume within 3 months. Bake in an 180°C / 360°F oven for 1 ½  hours, until fully heated.
For baked pastitsio: Let the food cool completely, wrap the pan tightly with heavy-duty foil, label and date it and freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat in an 180°C / 360°F oven for one hour, until fully heated.

You may also like

Check out my Greek pantry staples 

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Pastitsio in a baking pan with a peice cut out.

Pastitsio-Greek Beef pasta bake

by Jenny | The Greek Foodie
Pastitsio – Greek beef pasta bake is delicious classic comfort food with layers of white sauce, a beef ragù, and thick tubular pasta.
4.63 from 24 votes
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine Greek
Servings 8
Calories 977 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 lasagna pan 26 x 35cm / 10" x 14"

Ingredients
  

for the beef ragù 

  • 1.2 lb ground beef 500 grams
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 14 oz San Marzano tomatoes chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup kefalotiri cheese or pecorino romano, grated
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

for the white sauce

  • cup butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 cups whole milk 2 lt, warm
  • 1 bay leaf
  • cup gruyere cheese grated
  • 3 egg yolks from medium size eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • sea salt

for the pasta

  • 11 oz tubular pasta
  • sea salt
  • ½ cup kefalotiri cheese or pecorino romano, grated
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter

For the top

  • cup gruyere cheese grated
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs or panco

Instructions
 

Make the beef ragu

  • Place a wide large skillet on the stove over high, without any oil, on a. When skillet is hot add the ground meat. Using a wooden spoon, beak the meat as it browns. Brown while breaking and stirring constantly for 5-6 minutes, until the ground beef is well browned all over.
  • Add the onion, and olive oil to the skillet and continue sautéing for another 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste and stir. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Scrape the burnt bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon as you stir. 
  • Add the tomatoes and stir. Lower the heat and cook the beef for about 30 minutes, until it's tender and all its juices have been evaporated. 
  • Leave the meat to cool.
    Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Make the white sauce

  • Heat the milk slowly in a saucepan with the fresh bay leaf. 
  • Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a deep saucepan.
  • Pour the flour in batches and stir continuously on medium to low heat. 
    Continue stirring for 3-4 minutes on low heat to cook the flour.
  • Pour in the milk, all together with it, along with the bay leaves. Increase the heat a little and continue the non-stop stirring to gradually dissolve the lumps that form. 
    You can't avoid lumps, they just dissolve with continuous stirring.
  • Add the nutmeg. Simmer the sauce over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring very often with a wooden spoon. The béchamel will thicken. 
  • Add the cheese and immediately remove from the heat. Stir well.
  • Throw in the yolks and continue mixing, with the whisk.
    If you are not using immediately cover sauce with a cling film and press it lightly on the surface so that it does not form a crust.

Make the pasta

  • Boil the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water for 8 minutes, until tender.
    Drain pasta well and place it back in the pot. Add on the butter and toss.
  • With kitchen scissors, cut the pasta here and there into smaller pieces, so that they are not too long. 
    Sprinkle ½ cup of grated kefalotiri cheese and toss pasta.

Assemble

  • Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F.
  • Lay the pasta in a rectangular lasagna pan.
  • Add ½ cup of grated kefalotiri cheese in the meat sauce and stir.
  • Layer all the meat sauce on top of the pasta.
  • Finally, pour the béchamel on top and smooth the surface with a spatula.
  • Top pastitsio with the breadcrumbs and grated gruyere cheese.
  • Bake the pastitsio for about 60 minutes, until it forms a smooth and golden crust on top.
  • Let it cool for 15 minutes at least and serve.

Notes

  • Keep more milk and flour around than you might actually need. Just in case an adjustment in the thickness of the sauce is needed.
  • I always make more white sauce than I need. It is better to have extra than less, trust me on this. Refrigerate leftover sauce for up to three days. It must be covered with a transparent film right on the surface of the sauce, so that it does not form a crust. Use it over steak with lots of black pepper, fried potatoes, potato fritters or make macaroni and cheese.
  • Allow pastitsio to sit for 30 min before serving. It will be easier to cut and serve. 
  • If you’re a perfectionist do this:  Pass the béchamel through a fine sieve, pressing it with a wooden spoon so that the tiniest clumps of flour don’t remain.
  • Refrigerate already cooked pastitsio for up to three days. 
  • Pastitsio freezes and reheats beautifully. For uncooked pastitsio: Assemble as directed and wrap the baking pan tightly with heavy-duty foil. Make sure to label and date the foil. Consume within 3 months. For baked pastitsio: Let the food cool completely, wrap the pan tightly with heavy-duty foil, label and date it and freeze for up to 3 months.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 977kcalCarbohydrates: 58gProtein: 37gFat: 66gSaturated Fat: 30gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 26gTrans Fat: 2gCholesterol: 234mgSodium: 625mgPotassium: 761mgFiber: 2gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 1368IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 651mgIron: 3mg
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Greek Pastitsio Recipe- Beef Pasta Bake

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