Pastitsio

banner

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    10

Appears in

Falling Cloudberries

By Tessa Kiros

Published 2004

  • About

I love pastitsio. I have a special glass oval-shaped oven dish that I like to cook it in: it is about 35 cm (14 inches) long, 24 cm (10 inches) wide and 6 cm ( inches) deep. Make it in another shaped dish if you like, but it will need to be of similar dimensions (definitely no bigger). It might seem like a lot of fuss and bother, but if you’re well organised it can be fun. Pastitsio is best served warm, or even at room temperature, with a lovely big Greek salad.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 850 g (1 lb 14 oz) minced (ground) pork and beef
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 125 ml (½ cup) white wine
  • 400 g (14 oz) tinned tomatoes, chopped
  • 450 g (1 lb) short pasta
  • about 30 g (1 oz) butter
  • ½ teaspoon dried mint
  • 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs

Béchamel Sauce

  • 120 g (4 oz) butter
  • 125 g (1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 litre (4 cups) warm milk
  • a little freshly grated nutmeg

Method

Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan and fry the onion until it is soft and lightly golden. Add the parsley and garlic and cook for a few seconds before adding the meat. Fry for a few minutes until all the moisture has evaporated and the mince is starting to brown. Season with salt and pepper and add the bay leaf and cinnamon. When it begins to fry in the oil and brown, add the wine and cook until evaporated. Add the tomatoes and about a cupful of water and continue cooking over medium to low heat for 10–15 minutes until the tomatoes have melted into the meat. The meat shouldn’t be too dry. Remove from the heat.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 2 minutes less than it says on the packet so that it is still quite firm. Drain and put in a bowl. Mix in the butter and crumble in the mint with your fingers. Mix through well and spoon half over the base of a large ovenproof dish. Pour the meat mixture over the top so it evenly covers the pasta, then add the remaining pasta in another layer over the top. Press down with a wooden spoon so that it is fairly compact. Set aside while you make the béchamel sauce.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, then begin adding the warm milk. It will be immediately absorbed, so work quickly, whisking with one hand while adding ladlefuls of milk with the other. When the sauce seems to be smooth and not too stiff, add salt, pepper and a grating of nutmeg and continue cooking, even after it comes to the boil, for 5 minutes or so, mixing all the time. It should be a very thick and smooth sauce. Pour this over the pasta and meat layers in the dish. It should just fit exactly in the dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and bake for 30–40 minutes until the top is nicely golden in parts. Let it cool a little before cutting into squares to serve, otherwise it will run everywhere.