Pastitsio

One of those dishes everybody falls in love with at first bite.

An Italian and a Greek are arguing.
The Greek: ‘We’re the ones who invented sex’
The Italian: ‘Well, we’re the ones who figured out to do it with women’

If, from my heterosexual female point of view, the Italians were onto something there, I feel like the opposite applies to lasagne vs pastitsio. The Greek version definitely wins hands down.

This is as per Margaret Fulton’s original recipe, she seems to have lasagned the sauce in more recent renditions. I disapprove.

Pastitsio: serves 6-8.

I make the meat sauce ahead and freeze it, so I don’t need to bother with this part of the process on the day of making. I often divide the meat sauce in half and make two smaller pastitsios.

Stage one: the meat sauce

1 large onion chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
2 tablespoons butter
750g mince meat
3 tablespoons tomato paste
half a cup chicken stock
half a cup red or white wine
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
half teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper

Gently fry onion and garlic in butter until onion is soft. Increase heat and add meat. Stir well. Cook until meat begins to brown. Add remaining meat sauce ingredients. Cover and simmer on gentle heat for 20 minutes or so.

Stage two: cream sauce (make stage two and three at same time)

60g butter
half a cup of plain flour
3 cups of milk
quarter of a teaspoon of nutmeg
1 egg lightly beaten
salt and pepper

On low heat melt butter in pan. Stir in flour, cook gently for two minutes. Add all the milk, bring to the boil stirring constantly. Flour will be lumpy at first. Boil gently for one minute. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Let cool a little. Stir in the beaten egg. Add one third to half the cream sauce to the meat sauce, leaving enough to cover the casserole top.

Note: I find that this is not enough sauce and make about half as much again.

Stage three: the pasta

500g elbow macaroni, about # 34
4 tablespoons butter
half a cup of grated parmesan cheese
quarter of a teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated is so much better
3 eggs lightly beaten
salt and pepper

Cook macaroni until just al dente (it will cook more in the oven). Drain. Melt butter in the still hot pan and add macaroni, mix well. Add cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Toss well. Leave until cool. Add eggs. Leave.

Stage four: getting it all together.

Butter a large casserole dish (33 cm x 23 x 8)

Spoon half the macaroni evenly into the base. Top with the meat sauce. Cover with the rest of the macaroni, level top. Pour on the rest of the cream sauce and spread over the macaroni. Sprinkle half a cup of grated cheese on top. I tend to add the grated cheese half way through. Cook in a moderate oven for 50 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting as it holds together better then.

Comments

I used a tin which was 40cm x 28 cm x 8 on the weekend. I made a double quantity of pasta and cream sauce and used 1 kg of meat for the meat sauce. This was exactly right. It fed nine on the night (there was another dish as well) and leftovers for maybe 4 more.

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