Irene’s Pastitsio

Pastitsio is a layered pasta casserole, also known as “Macaronia tou Fournou” (pasta cooked in the oven). It is a very popular dish throughout Greece and is the perfect dish to make for a large family gathering or party, as it yields a large number of pieces. Pastitsio consists of layers of pasta, a layer of ground beef, and a thick béchamel sauce. Traditionally, a dash of ground cinnamon is added to the ground beef, but in this recipe Irene has chosen to omit the cinnamon. Feel free to add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the ground beef if you like.

For the pasta
2 packages of ‘Pastitsio’ pasta, #4
2 egg whites
About ½ a cup of Parmesan cheese

For the ground beef
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 bulbs of minced garlic
1 small chopped onion
2 pounds of lean ground beef
1 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoons of ground pepper
1 teaspoons of oregano
300 ml of tomato sauce or 2 cups of chopped tomatoes

For the béchamel
5 cups of milk, warmed to room temperature
½ pound of butter
½ cup of all-purpose flour
A dash of salt and pepper
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon of breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon of paprika

Cook the pasta for about 8-9 minutes in a large pot of salted water.

In another large pot, heat the oil over low heat. Over low-medium heat, sauté the garlic and onion for about 1-2 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook until the meat has browned. Add the salt, spices and tomato sauce, and continue to stir the meat until it is cooked. Set aside.

Drain the pasta. Once the pasta is back in your pot add 2 egg whites and stir the pasta. Add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese to the pasta.

Brush the bottom of a large pan with olive oil. Place half of your pasta in the large pan. Make sure it is spread out evenly. Add another sprinkle of parmesan cheese to the pasta.

Spread your ground beef sauce over the pasta. Add another layer of pasta and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

To prepare the béchamel, melt the butter in a large pot at low heat. Once the butter is melted, slowly add in the flour while continually stirring. Slowly add in the milk and continue to stir the sauce until it is smooth. Add salt and pepper. Once all lumps have been smoothed out, remove the sauce from the heat and add in 2 egg yolks. Stir well.

Add the béchamel sauce over the pasta. Be sure to spread the sauce out evenly. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Add a sprinkle of paprika if you like.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Let the pastitsio stand for 10 minutes to cool before you cut into squares.


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