Wish Upon A Dish: Pastitsio - My Way

December 22, 2010

Pastitsio - My Way

Very strange that the week I want to make pastitsio I get a post from a blog about pastitsio and the Barefoot Contessa airs her version all on the same day.

I will probably make my own version, taking a little from each recipe.

Traditional pasta is bucatini (although I have seen ziti used more), ground chuck (usually it is ground lamb) and a bechamel with a mix of cheeses and egg yolks.

Pastitsio is like lasagna, each family has their own recipe and there really is no wrong way to make it.

I have a dentist's appointment today and I will need something soft to eat for dinner and this is soft enough.

Most dishes arrange the layers in a specific order, just like lasagna, and the order is really up to the cook. Most start with the pasta on the bottom, a layer of the meat sauce then topped with the bechamel.
That is how I will be assembling mine because I am using uncooked ziti rigatis and I need the sauce to surround the layers.

I start with a lite layer of sauce, then line up the uncooked ziti rigatis.
Do not crowd them in there, they will expand to twice the size once cooked.

Add a substantial layer of sauce next.

Another layer of ziti rigatis.

Another good spoonful of sauce.
Remember, we need the moisture to cook the pasta or else it will be like glue.

A side version of our assembling. It should go to halfway up the baking dish.

Pour the bechamel over the top, yes all of it.

Some will seep into the sauce layer but that's OK. It will all taste really good.
Cover it tightly with foil and place in a preheated 350F oven for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, take off the foil, sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup grated cheese over the top.

You can see the egg yolk firmed the bechamel and it did not seep deep down into the bottom layers.

Now, up the oven to 400F.

Place the uncovered casserole into the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the top is GB&D.

Please let it rest for at least 30 minutes. This dish would even be better, made a day ahead and reheated.

This was excellent!!
A ton of flavor and the bechamel is just creamy enough.

You need to seriously put this on your list of recipes to do next year, if not next week. If you are feeding a houseful of guests, this is the perfect dish to make.

My Pastitsio
makes 3 servings
* 2 tablespoons EVOO
* 1 pound chopped chuck or ground lamb
* 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
* 1 28oz can Muir Glen Fire Roasted crushed tomatoes
* 1 14oz can tomato sauce
* 1 tablespoon dried oregano
* 1 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1 bay leaf
* 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
* 1 14oz can water
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon

* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
* 1 tablespoon flour
* 1 cup whole milk
* 1/2 cup grated cheese (I used a sheep's milk Romano)
* 1 good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
* salt & pepper to taste
* 1 egg yolk

* Enough uncooked small ziti rigatis to make a single layer 2x.

1. Saute the onions in EVOO until translucent. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute.
2. Add the ground meat and brown (about 5 minutes).
3. Add the oregano, thyme, bay leaf and saute for 1 more minute.
4. Add the tomatoes and sauce. Season with salt & pepper. At this point you do not want to add the cinnamon unless you are using the whole batch of sauce.
5. Simmer the sauce for 1 hour covered on low, and 30 minutes, uncovered to thicken.
6. Store half the sauce in a quart container and to the other half add the cinnamon. Reserve.
7. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour, whisking until smooth.
8. Add the milk and continue whisking until smooth and bubbly.
9. Add the nutmeg, grated cheese and whisk until smooth. Take off the heat to cool.
10. Taste for salt & pepper and adjust seasonings.
11. Once bechamel is cool, add the yolk and whisk once again.
12. Assemble casserole.

Serve with warm bread or rolls, a nice salad and a Pinot Gris.

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