April 20, 2008

Greek Pastitsio

Another great Greek dish which I have been trying to recreate for quite some time. I have tried a few different recipes and I think this recipe gives a pretty authentic taste and texture, whilst not being too laborious.

Although it seems quite similar to lasagne in its construction, I think the emphasis is on the cheese sauce part, which holds the pasta together and allows the pastitsio to be sliced into portions like a cake. The nutmeg and cinnamon might seem like weird spices to add but I think they give the dish the authentic taste.

Serves 4

Pasta Mixture
  • 500g pasta (authentic pastitsio uses Ziti but you can use penne, macaroni or bucatini)
  • 3/4 cup (75g) grated cheese (use something that has good melting properties, like Halloumi or Mozzarella. I used Quattro Formaggio which was a mixture of Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina and Mild Provolone)
Meat Sauce
  • 500g minced beef or pork
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes or 1/2 jar ready made sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tomato puree/paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Cheese Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 600ml/1 pint milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup (75g) cheese

Directions
  1. Cook pasta until it is still al dente (otherwise it will turn to mush after you cook it in the oven). Drain, and return to pan. Stir in the cheese and set aside your pasta mixture.
  2. For the meat sauce: cook minced beef and onion until meat loses its pinkness and onion is soft; drain excess fat.
  3. Stir in tomato sauce, the 1 teaspoon salt, mint flakes (if used), cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper; set aside.
  4. For cheese sauce: in a saucepan, melt the butter, then mix in flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  5. Slowly stir in the milk, stirring well after each addition so that no lumps form.
  6. Cook and stir on medium high until sauce starts to thicken; stir for one minute more, then remove from heat.
  7. Beat egg in a small bowl, then pour into cheese sauce, stirring briskly.
  8. Blend in the cheese.
  9. Layer half the pasta mixture in a 11" x 7" baking dish.
  10. Spoon the meat mixture evenly on top, then the remaining pasta.
  11. Pour cream sauce over top, to cover completely.
  12. Bake, uncovered, at Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C for about 40 minutes, or until hot and lightly browned.
  13. Let stand for 10 minutes.

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