Pastitsio is called “Greece’s answer to lasagna”, but pasta has been made in Greece at least as long as in Italy, so for all we know, maybe lasagna’s Italy’s answer to pastitsio… Well, it doesn’t really matter, what’s important is that this is really tasty food. The Greeks eat it lukewarm or cold, to enhance the flavour.
- 600 g minced beef or lamb, or half of each
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 0.75 cup red wine
- 1 small can tomato paste (150 g)
- 1 cup water or stock
- 3 garlic cloves, pressed or mashed
- salt, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, oregano
- 400 g bucatini (thick, hollow spaghetti – or use penne or macaroni)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- salt, pepper
- 1,5 cup grated cheese, such as Graviera or Gruyere or whatever you like
- optional: 0,5 cup dried breadcrumbs
Brown the meat in oil while you crumble it well. Add the onion at the end. Pour over the wine and let it boil for a bit. Stir in tomato paste, water/stock, garlic and spices. Be careful with the cinnamon, a tiny sprinkle is enough.
Cook the sauce for a long time, preferably a couple of hours, but certainly at least a half. The sauce should be thick, like porridge.
Cook the bucatini according to package directions.
Melt butter and stir in flour for the white sauce. Gradually add the milk little by little, and simmer the sauce for five minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in the grated cheese, the sauce should not boil after this stage.
NOTE: If you want an even more authentic pastitsio, you can double the amount of sauce ingredients, except cheese, and add a couple of eggs at the end. But I prefer the version above.
Butter or oil an ovenproof dish. Pour half the pasta in the bottom, layer the meat sauce on top of it, and the rest of the pasta on top of the meat. Pour over
the cheese sauce, and sprinkle the breadcrumbs (if used) over the cheese sauce. Bake at 180 degrees C for about 40 minutes.
Let the pastitsio rest for half an hour on the kitchen counter before you eat it, with a salad and some crusty bread.