Beef Pastitsio

Beef Pastitsio | Gather and Graze

Pastitsio is a layered Greek pasta dish, in many ways similar to it’s rather delicious Italian cousin, lasagne. It works well with either minced beef or lamb, though my family unanimously prefers the beef version. If you’re unable to find the Greek Kefalotyri cheese, feel free to substitute with Parmesan. Hope you enjoy this gently-spiced pasta dish as much as we do!

Beef Pastitsio | Gather and Graze

For the Meat Sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Brown Onion (finely diced)
  • 700g (1½lb) Minced Beef
  • 2 tsp Dried Mint
  • 1 tsp Ground Allspice
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 400g (1½ Cups) Tomato Passata/Purée
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

For the Pasta:

  • 400g Bucatini or Ziti (or other tubular pasta, like Penne)
  • 2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Free-Range Egg Whites
  • 40g (½ Cup) Grated Kefalotyri Cheese

For the Cheese Béchamel:

  • 60g (4 Tbsp) Unsalted Butter
  • 60g (7½ Tbsp) Plain Flour
  • 600ml (1⅓ Cup) Full-Cream Milk (warmed… I use the microwave)
  • Good Pinch of Ground Nutmeg
  • 2 Free-Range Egg Yolks
  • 40g (½ Cup) Grated Kefalotyri Cheese
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

For the Topping:

  • 80g (1 Cup) Grated Kefalotyri Cheese

To prepare the Meat Sauce:

In a large saucepan, over low-medium heat, sauté the diced onion in the olive oil, until translucent and softened. Add the minced beef and cook until browned. Now add the mint, spices, tomato paste, tomato passata and sugar. Season with some freshly ground pepper and sea salt. Cover the saucepan with a lid and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. Check the consistency and if need be, remove the lid to allow some of the liquid to evaporate… or add a little water if too dry.

At this stage, pre-heat the oven to 180°C. With a little olive oil, grease a deep-sided, medium sized baking dish (whatever you would use if making lasagne).

To prepare the Pasta:

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and season with salt. Cook the pasta until it’s almost al dente (just a minute or so less). Drain and put back in the pot while you stir through the butter, then the egg whites and cheese.

To prepare the Cheese Béchamel (while the pasta is cooking):

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the flour and stir to combine. Continue stirring over the heat for a couple of minutes, to remove the raw flour taste. Add in the warmed milk and continue stirring until thickened. Stir in the nutmeg, egg yolks, cheese and seasonings. Be sure to stir the yolks in slowly, but vigorously, so that they combine smoothly with the rest of the sauce.

To layer the Pastitsio:

First of all, spread out half of the pasta across the bottom of the greased dish. Layer the meat sauce across the top, then the rest of the pasta on top of the meat. Finish with the béchamel sauce over the top of the pasta and an even sprinkling of the remaining cheese.

Beef Pastitsio | Gather and Graze

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 45 minutes (until the cheese is golden brown on top).

Serve hot, with a well-dressed garden salad on the side. A glass of red won’t go astray either!

Beef Pastitsio | Gather and Graze

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