You've probably all come across Pastitsio before, especially on Ruth, the Pasta Queen's site, I know I have, even saving a recipe to my file. So, finally the day arrived. All ingredients were present and accounted for, and we said (me in the Royal sense) let's do it. Fabulous. A keeper.
I think what had put me off previously was the idea of making two sauces. I know, it doesn't take much. However, as it turned out, that was no big deal. First you get your ragu going, and while it simmers on a back burner, the pasta water can come to a boil, and while that's happening, you throw together a simple Bechamel (White Sauce) with cheese. Dump in the pasta, and everything comes together in three layers. Pretty easy, really. Especially when you make things even simpler by adding a good quality prepared tomato sauce to your ground beef after it has browned. The Greek seasonings add a lovely touch of the exotic. Unless you are Greek. Then, it's a taste of home.
PastitsioAdapted from The Book of Greek Cooking by Lesley Mackley
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 1/4 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
salt and pepper
1/2 lb. penne or macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup AP flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups grated kefalortiri cheese (6 oz.) I used cheddar and Parmesan
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Bring pasta water to a boil. In a skillet, heat oil. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add beef and stir fry until browned, then add the stock, tomato paste and seasonings. Simmer for 15 minutes or so until sauce is reduced. Meanwhile, cook the macaroni until al dente. Drain, rinse and set aside.
In another saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Gradually stir in the milk and half the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add the macaroni to the Bechamel sauce and mix in. Spread half the mixture over the bottom of a 2 quart gratin or souffle dish. Cover with the meat sauce, then top with remaining macaroni mixture. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top. Bake 45 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbling.
Serve with fresh greens. Something with a bit of crunch added in. A loaf of good bread and glass of burgandy or Pinot Noir would be nice as well. My contribution to this week's Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this time by Three Cookies. Also sending a link to Hearth 'n Soul Blog Hop.