Pastitsio

Have you ever had Pastitsio? Have you ever heard of it? According to Wikipedia, it is “a Greek and Mediterranean baked pasta dish including ground beef and béchamel sauce in its best-known form.” I LOVE béchamel sauce, so I thought I would attempt to make this dish. I am not going to lie, it took some time. I dirtied up about 4-5 pots and dishes. But, my house smelled wonderful when this was cooking, and…it was really good! That cinnamon in the “ground beef” was very interesting and different. Toby thought this was lasagna when he saw it. He had at least 2 helpings (maybe 3?), and Liam had seconds. The béchamel turned out really well. One thing: I did not have enough room in my large pan to fit all the noodles, sauce, and béchamel. Next time (and there will be one), I would like to make maybe 1/4 less.

rating: 9.2

Pastitsio
(Food Network Magazine, April 2012)

active time: 1 hour, 10 min.
total time: 2 hours
serves 8-12

Ingredients:

Pasta & Filling:

kosher salt
1 pound ziti
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 pound ground beef or lamb, or a combination (I used 1 bag of Morningstar Farms Grillers Recipe Crumbles)
1 onion, chopped
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (I used vegetarian Worcestershire sauce)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups grated kefalotyri or parmesan cheese (about 6 ounces)

Bechamel:

4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups plain 2% Greek yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
kosher salt

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Meanwhile, make the filling: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cinnamon and cook until the onion is soft, about 5 more minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and wine and cook until the wine starts to evaporate, about 2 more minutes. Add the tomato sauce, 2 cups water, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and bring to a simmer. Stir in the parsley and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in 1 tbsp breadcrumbs and remove from the heat.
2. When the pasta is done, drain and return to the pot off the heat; stir in the butter, then the beaten eggs and 1 cup cheese until the pasta is coated.
3. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with olive oil. Spread half the pasta in the dish, then top with the meat filling and the remaining pasta.
4. Make the bechamel: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking, 1 minute. (Do not let the flour brown.). Whisk in the yogurt and 3/4 cup water and gently simmer, whisking, until slightly thickened, about 5 more minutes. (Do not let the mixture boil.). Remove from the heat and whisk in the eggs, nutmeg and 1/4 tsp salt.
5. Pour the bechamel evenly over the pasta in the baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup cheese and 1 tbsp breadcrumbs and bake until golden, 40-45 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes beore serving.

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