I’m back. Did you miss me? It’s only been a couple of weeks but I’ve had my feet in the pool and my face in the sun and it’s been bloody lovely. I have been spending time researching whilst in Greece, and by researching I mean eating fried cheese and drinking litres of rosé. Greek food is so underrated; their ingredients are fresh, wholesome and the dishes are rich and tasty. And I’m sure this is not just the Ouzo talking. So today, I have made enough Pastitsio for the whole of Greece and I’m sharing it with you.
Pastitsio is basically just a Greek style macaroni based lasagna. The meat sauce is rich and thick, the macaroni is tossed in butter and parmesan and then the whole dish is finished with a thick, egg enriched bechamel. We didn’t actually eat this in a restaurant in Porto Heli, but my friend and I did make this huge dish in our villa for our families to enjoy. We used local produce and it was inhaled by every single sun kissed guest. Back in London I’ve forked up this Greek-ish dish using a Taste of Home, as my guide. And it makes the mother of all portions, enough for at least 8 to 10 hungry family members. Or in my case, enough for 3 men and a hungover 49 year old.
I am so in love with Greek food, this Pastitsio may be just the tip of my Eastern Mediterranean iceberg. Watch this space for stuffed vine leaves, Avgolemono and octopus, time and another trip to Greece to research, dependent.
Here’s the simple wholesome line up for this huge dish. Minus the nutmeg and cinnamon, both of which are optional. I didn’t add the cinnamon as my family are anti it, however, it would just add a touch of authenticity, if you fancy it.
This dish comes in three stages, so I’ll stop the mindless drivel and get on with it. Start with the sauce, but first, butter or oil a bloody great big 33cm x 23cm baking dish or tin and pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees fan assisted. Next, take the beef mince, chopped onions and garlic and add them to a large pan heated over a high flame. Cook for around 10 minutes or until the mince is browned and onions and garlic have softened.
Now, pour in the passata, salt and pepper, sugar, oregano and optional cinnamon. Stir well and simmer for another ten minutes.
Oh Lord, my hand looks worse than ever.
Turn off the heat and pop to one side. Now for the macaroni. Cook according to the instructions on the packet then drain well. Stir in the butter and 100g of the grated parmesan.
Give it a good mix then tip into your buttered dish and level the top.
Pour on the meat sauce and again, level the surface. Sprinkle the sauce with another 100g of grated parmesan.
Take a pan for the white sauce and heat over a low flame. Add the butter, melt, then whisk in the flour until smooth.
Now, pour in the milk, a little at a time, whisking as you go. Once all the milk has been added, simmer for another couple of minutes, until thickened. Season with salt and pepper and a good grating of nutmeg. I love nutmeg in a white sauce, it adds a lovely warmth.
In a small bowl, whisk 2 eggs. Slowly whisk in 4 to 5 tablespoons of the hot white sauce, then add this back into the saucepan and whisk the mixture well.
It looks a bit odd at this point but don’t worry.
Put the rich bechamel back on the stove and cook for another minute or two, whisking all the time. Scrape this on top of the meat sauce and level again. Sprinkle on the remaining grated parmesan then your Pastitsio is oven ready.
Bake this mountain of a dish for around 40 minutes or until golden, bubbling and smelling amazing.
It’s unbearable, but wait at least 10 to 15 minutes before you serve this. It will still be piping hot, but will have firmed up a little. Serve in generous portions, with some salad or a green vegetable.
Holidays are so good for resting, relaxing and doing bugger all. They are also amazing for finding new dishes under the guise of being a pig. And this is something I excel at.
Serves 8 to 10, maybe more
You will just need pans and a large 33cm x 23cm deep baking tin or dish
500g macaroni, or penne would be ok too
250g parmesan, grated
750g beef mince
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
680g jar passata
1/2 teaspoon salt
Generous grind of black pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
100g plain flour
1 litre milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
A good grinding black pepper
A good grating nutmeg
Serve with salad or a green vegetable
Pre heat your oven 160 degrees fan assisted and butter or oil your large baking dish or tray.
Take a large pan and heat over a high flame. Add the mince along with the finely chopped onion and garlic and cook for around 10 minutes or until the mince is cooked through. Pour in the passata, oregano, salt and pepper, sugar and optional cinnamon. Stir well and simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave for a moment.
Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet then drain. Stir through the butter and 100g of the grated parmesan. Tip this into your buttered dish and level.
Pour over the meat sauce and sprinkle with another 100g grated parmesan.
For the bechamel sauce take a medium sauce pan and heat over a low heat. Melt the butter then whisk in the flour. Keep whisking and gradually add the milk, a little at a time, until smooth. Simmer for a couple of minutes until thickened and season with salt and pepper and the grating of nutmeg.
Take a small bowl and whisk two eggs. Spoon over 4 to 5 tablespoons of the hot white sauce on and whisk again. Add this mixture back into the pan, whisk, and cook for a further minute or two.
Pour the sauce over the top of the dish and smooth to cover. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and then bake for around 40 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Leave to sit for 15 minutes before serving with some salad or green vegetable of your choice. Any leftovers will keep perfectly in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.