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Pastitsio

January 16, 2011

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Your probably wondering what is pastitsio?  Well so was I.  I had never heard of it up until my friend Laura shared with us a recipe that she was so excited about.  Not just because her family loves it so much, but also because she entered into a “recipe contest” and won first prize!  Pastitsio is a wonderful creamy baked pasta that is also referred to as “Greek lasagna”.  This version of pastitsio is layered with bread crumbs, pasta, cheese, a savory meat and tomato sauce, and topped with a creamy bechamel sauce.  Bechamel sauce is a simple white sauce made from milk.  Bechamel sauce is also a key ingredient to many lasagna recipes.  A warm and cozy comfort food perfect during the winter months, please enjoy! 

(Please note the recipe from Laura did not include portabello mushrooms, this was our choice to add them).  For more pasta recipes from the italian chef, click here.  

 The meat sauce:

Bechamel  sauce:

Start your pasta while you are preparing the meat sauce.  Cook until slightly undone, drain and set aside.  (Drizzle with olive oil to prevent from sticking). 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

The meat sauce:

In a large nonstick pan sauté the onions in 2 tbsp. olive oil until soft and translucent.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the ground beef and cook until brown.  Spoon out fat.  Add the tomatoes, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper to taste.  Stir to combine completely.  Reduce heat to medium low stirring occasionally until liquid is absorbed about 45 minutes, while you prepare your béchamel sauce.  Allow to cool before using.

Bechamel sauce:

In a large sauce pan add the water and bring to boil.  Meanwhile whisk the cornstarch into one can of evaporated milk.  Once your water boils whisk in the cornstarch and milk, stirring for 1 minute.  Lower heat to medium and add the second can of milk, butter and salt.  Continue whisking until sauce thickens.  Whisk in the beaten eggs and nutmeg quickly so eggs do not cook.  Stir in the ½ cup cheese, mix well to combine.  Cover and set aside until ready to use.

Assembly:

In a large 11x15x3 inch casserole dish coat with remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil.  Spread evenly with breadcrumbs.  Spread ½ of the pasta.  Sprinkle ½ cup cheese.  Add the meat sauce spreading evenly.  Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup cheese.  Spread the second half of the pasta.  Carefully and slowly spoon the béchamel sauce over the top.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and continue baking until nicely browned about 20 minutes.  Allow to cool before serving.

Serves: 6-8

Total time: 2 hours

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