MAKES ONE LARGE 9’’X13’’ TRAY, about 12 servings
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 45 to 55 minutes
This classic Greek comfort food is my husband’s favorite meal. It makes a large portion is great for family gatherings. I often make it on the weekend and we eat it for dinner a few times during the week.
For meat sauce:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 lbs ground beef (80/20)
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon sea salt, more if needed
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
6 oz. (3/4 cup) tomato paste
1 ½ fl oz, (or 3 tablespoons) brandy or cognac
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons flour
2 cups cold whole milk
4 cups hot whole milk
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs, divided
1/3 cup of grated parmesan
16 oz pastitsio pasta, or a thick noodle with a whole in the center like bucatini
Salted water for boiling
16 oz pastitsio pasta, cooked to al dente
2 large eggs
2/3 cup parmesan cheese, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup béchamel
Bring a large skillet to medium-high heat, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil along with your chopped onion.
Sauté onions for about 5 minutes or until translucent with the edges just starting to turn brown.
Lower the heat to medium and add in meat. Keep the meat moving in the pan to fully cook, about 5 minutes. Once cooked (browned with no pink), add in nutmeg, cinnamon stick, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Continue cooking for 7 to 9 minutes or until most moisture is gone from pan.
Move meat to one side of the pan, add in brandy and flambé until all liquor is cooked off, about 2 minutes.
Add tomato paste and fully combine. Once incorporated, add enough water (about 2 cups) to cover the meat and set on low to simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. Most of the liquid should be cooked off.
While the meat sauce is simmering, prepare Béchamel. Add butter to a medium pot over medium heat. Once melted, add flour and whisk to keep moving until you smell a nutty aroma and the flour is a light toasted brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Slowly whisk in cold milk until a thick sauce is formed. Add in warm milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Continue slowly whisking until the sauce is a thick, pudding like consistency and coats the back of a spoon.
Remove sauce from heat. And very quickly whisk in two eggs (you must work quickly to ensure your eggs don’t scramble). Once fully incorporated, fold in 1/3 cup of parmesan.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. While oven is pre-heating, coat a 9 x 13” baking dish with cooking spray.
While your oven is pre-heating, bring a large pot of water to boil and season with salt. Cook noodles according to package directions, but to al dente as the pasta will continue cooking once assembled and in the oven (I usually cook one minute less then package suggests). Once cooked, drain pasta and pour into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl with your cooked noodles, stir in two eggs, 1/3 cup parmesan, 2 tablespoons butter, and 1 cup béchamel sauce. Toss to fully coat.
Add half of your noodles to the prepared baking dish, top with all of the meat sauce, and layer the remaining noodles on top.
Using a piece of parchment, place on top of your noodles to press mixture into pan, condensing the noodles and sauce together in a nice layer. This ensures there will be enough room for your remaining béchamel. Remove parchment and add the remaining béchamel in a nice, even layer. Top with remaining 1/3 cup of parmesan.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. This will ensure your béchamel is set.