Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's all Greek to Me - Pastitsio aka "Greek Lasagna"

Pastitsio, is basically Greek for "hodge podge". And a little bit of a hodge podge it is, but it's a delicious hodgepodge. :) I love anything with béchamel poured over the top, it causes me to reminisce about by mom's Moussaka.

There is a controversy however, regarding the construction of the dish. Some say lamb, some say beef. Others say cinnamon in the meat mixture, other say no way, because it clashes with the delicate nutmeg of the béchamel. I think that it really should not matter, I mean the name of the dish means Hodge Podge, by definition, this means what ever you have lying around, be it Cinnamon and Lamb, Beef and All-spice, even Turkey and more Nutmeg. This is how I made mine.

The one thing that is pretty much agreed on is the pasta... It's a long tubular noodle...

Since I am more familiar with Italian Pastas, I would describe it as a cross between Bucatini and Zitoni (or Long Ziti).

Pastitsio consists of 3 different parts. The Meat Sauce and béchamel can be prepared separately, chilled (covered) and then assembled at a later date if necessary (But no longer than 2 days) Simply bring everything to room temperature while boiling the pasta, and then proceed.


Meat sauce:1 medium Red Onion, finely chopped
1 TB Olive Oil
2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 LB Lamb, ground
3 Roma Tomatoes (seeded and sliced)
1 (15-oz) can diced Tomatoes
1 TB Thyme
1 tsp Kosher Salt or to taste
Black Pepper to taste

Béchamel:4 TB unsalted Butter
3 TB AP Flour
4 cups Whole Milk
1/2 cup Kefalotyri or Kasseri Cheese, grated
1/2 tsp grated Nutmeg
1 tsp Kosher Salt
3 large Egg Yolks

Assembly:1 lb Zitoni (Italian) or No 2 (Greek) Pasta
1/2 cup Kefalotyri or Kasseri Cheese, grated
3/4 cup Panko or 1/2 cup Regular Bread crumbs
3 TB Myzithra, Grated

Make meat sauce:

Sweat the onions in oil in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened.
Add garlic and sweat an additional minute.

Increase heat to high, add lamb, breaking up any lumps with a fork (you want a fine texture) until the meat is nice and browned, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, seed and slice up the Roma Tomato.

Pour off excess fat from skillet; then stir in sliced tomatoes, the Diced tomatoes, thyme, and salt.

Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, to allow some liquid to evaporated, about 30 minutes, but the meat mixture is still moist.

While the sauce is simmering:
Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
Add the flour whisking until the roux is smooth, bubbly and pale gold in color.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in another saucepan over medium-low heat until it begins to simmer slightly (this is scalding)
Pour the hot milk into the roux fairly quickly (don’t drizzle it in like hollandaise), whisking constantly until very smooth.

Bring béchamel to a boil over medium heat for 1 minute, whisking constantly.
Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg, kefalotyri, and salt.
In a small bowl lightly beat yolks.

Condition the yolks by adding about 1 cup of the hot béchamel to the bowl, while whisking constantly, then add the yolk mixture to the sauce pan of béchamel; again whisking constantly.
The béchamel can be covered with a piece of buttered was paper laid on the surface.

You can stop here, and store everything in the refrigerator for tomorrow or continue on at this point.

Assemble pastitsio:
Preheat oven to 375
Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water (1 TB for every 2 quarts of water) until al dente.
Drain pasta, then transfer to a large bowl and stir in 1/2 cup béchamel. (which I forgot to do this time)

Arrange half of pasta lengthwise in 1 layer in a large (7 1/2 x 11 x 2.5) baking dish. (Sorry, I have old Corningware baking dishes)

Add the meat sauce and spread evenly over the pasta layer.

Sprinkle with the Kefalotyri cheese,

then lay down another layer of pasta.

Spread remaining béchamel evenly over top layer of pasta.

Stir together bread crumbs and Myzithra cheese

and sprinkle evenly over top of pastitsio.

Bake on a rimmed baking sheet (cause pastitsio can bubble over just like lasagna) until crumbs are golden brown and sauce is bubbling, about 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let rest of at least 15 minutes before serving.

Nostimmos!!! (delicious)

Troo to peridromo! (my conjugation is probably off, but I tried)



Olive Tree Guitar Ensemble said...

Hi, it's a very great blog.
I could tell how much efforts you've taken on it.
Keep doing!

Culinary Alchemist said...

Thank you :)

Michele said...

THis is soo cool! I've heard of the dish before but had no idea that type of pasta was used. I always learn something from you. Oh, and I say add cinnamon!

Bob said...

I've only had pastichio once and it had, what I thought was, way too much nutmeg in the bechamel. It tasted like nothing but nutmeg. I bet this was much better, it sure looks good! Plus I love me some lamb.

And if anyone says the way you make it is wrong, then I say just don't give them any. Heh.

Culinary Alchemist said...

Thanks Michele! :)

Bob - Yeah, the nutmeg in some of the béchamel recipies is a little potent. I use my mom's Moussaka béchamel to make it. I agree with you, I am all over the lamb any time I can get it.. :)

Aline said...

So, how did it come out? Was it good?
I thought the layering was funny! I'm not used to seeing layered pastitsio - usually, we mix the pasta and meat before pouring the béchamel over, but it's not compulsory.

Culinary Alchemist said...

It was awesome!
I was going to use Beef, but found that my freezer was beef-less, so I made sure I drained the lamb REALLy well. If I had used the beef, I would have added cinnamon, but lamb is so light, I thought it best to leave it out this time. Definately want to make it again... but I think I am going to do as you suggested and toss the meat with the pasta then pour the bechamel over the top.. :) I had forgotten how much I love Myzithra. LOL

Aline said...

Greeks don't have many cheeses but those they have are great. I love French cheeses but a (real) camembert can never beat a good feta to me!
I'll wait to see your Pastistio 2.0. Maybe I'll post my mom's recipe too so you can get a few extra ideas if you like

Culinary Alchemist said...

I would love to see your mom's recipe, that would be awesome!

Aline said...

I'll have to translate it as it's in Greek, and measurements will be in metric, so I hope it'll be OK with you. Not sure when I do that, though, as the week will be pretty busy (Greek grandma coming Wednesday! :D ) so you may want to check on BakeSpace this weekend

Aline said...

In the meantime, I found some pastitsio recipes that may interest you, from a blog called Kopiaste

Pastitsio Lasagne

Pastitsio the Greek Way

Pastitsio the Cypriot Way

Culinary Alchemist said...

Most Excellent!!!! Thank you :)

Dajana said...

Looks great, but I'd make it with beef, because I'm just not a lamb person, and I think I'd add some mushrooms, too.
Do you think Sicilian cuisine is influenced by Greek, because they do this kind of oven baked pasta often. My father-in-law who is Sicilian, always tells about Sunday lunches taken to the beach (unbelievable!) and they always included this kind of pasta.

Spryte said...

I've been dying to try this!

Yours looks really great!