Saturday, April 16, 2011


This recipe comes from the Greece issue of Saveur. This, along with the Roman issue are among the biggest home run issues of cooking magazines that I have ever come across. Funnily enough, I almost didn't read most of the magazine. When I got it, I screeched to a halt at the Chicken Galliano recipe on page 28 -- there was still almost 100 pages of awesomeness to go when I finally got around to flipping through the rest of it.

Pastitsio is sometimes referred to as Greek Lasagne -- a name which I don't think really does it justice, since it is brilliant in it's own right and needs no comparison. It is kinda like lasagne though.

The basic steps are to make a meat sauce (this can be done a day or so in advance if you want), then you cook up some noodles, layer the noodles and meat sauce, coat the whole thing in a creamy bechamel, bake it up and delve into culinary heaven when it's ready! Huzzah!

For the meat sauce, you'll need a pound of ground meat (I used pork, but beef and veal are supposed to be ok too), 3 oz. of dry-cured sausage like chorizo or something (I get cool ones from a local Italian deli called Nicastro's), 2 cups of crushed tomatoes (I used a whole 796 ml can), 1 green pepper (the recipe says 2, but this puppy was HUGE!), 2 yellow onions (again, I had a huge one, so went with one), 1/3 cup of red wine, 1/4 teaspoon of chile flakes, 2 bay leaves, and a two-inch stick of cinnamon (mine were kinda skinny so I went with two). I'm good at following recipes, eh?

I chose a nice Spanish wine called Sange de toro (bull`s blood!). The cool thing about the kind I get is that it comes with a little plastic bull on the bottle. You may notice the bottle has been dipped-into in the ingredients photo -- this reminds me to give you a little advice: pour your 1/3 cup of wine into a measuring cup now before you drink it all.

This bull is a great opportunity to make a bunch of lame jokes the whole time you cook supper. You can say `What is all this bull?!`and stuff like that over and over again. You can also do the whole Bugs Bunny schtick with `What a gulli-bull!` and `What a nin-cow-poop!` You know, work it! It`s way easier to be hilarious than you think.

ANYWAY, finely chop your onion and bell pepper and saute them for awhile. The recipe says 10 minutes, but I did mine for more like 20 -- number 2 kid doesn`t like onions, so I like to make them really soft.

While that`s going on, chop your chorizo. Make the pieces pretty small, since they will add great flavour throughout the whole dish and you want to make sure there is enough to get around.

When the onions and peppers are good, slide them out of the pan (the recipe says to use a slotted spoon -- good luck with that, I just dumped it). Then get your sausage and ground meat in there, and brown them for about 10 minutes.

When that`s all nice and browned, add the onions and peppers, the crushed tomatoes, the wine, the chile flakes, the cinnamon stick(s), and the bay leaves. Bring that to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer away for about 15 minutes.

When the sauce is nice and thick, turn off the heat and season with salt, pepper, and the ingredient I forgot to mention at the start: some grated nutmeg. Remember my cool nutmeg grater?

 Ok, now on to phase two: noodles, bechamel, assembly and baking. You can stop here and do the rest another day, just remember to heat the sauce again to make sure it will spread out easily when you go to assemble the casserole.

For this stage, you`ll need 1/2 cup of butter (the recipe says 8 tablespoons -- I have no idea how they expect you to measure it that way), 1 cup of flour, a whole litre of milk, 1 cup of grated parmesean, and 3 eggs. You`ll also need salt and pepper and a little nutmeg to season the bechamel.

Start by melting the butter. Use a sauce pan because we`re making buckets of bechamel. You may as well heat your oven now too -- fire it up to 350F.

Gradually whisk the flour into the butter, stirring with each addition until it starts to clump up too much for the whisk to handle it.

I wasn`t able to get the whole cup of flour worked into the butter at this point, so I had to start adding milk to make it more fluid and able to accept more flour.

Just keep working in the milk and any remaining flour bit by bit until you have a nice smooth sauce. Let this blup away for around 10 minutes, whisking it every now and then.

While that`s going on, you can get your noodles on the boil -- you need a pound of noodles. The recipe calls Greek macaroni -- I have no idea where to get that, so I went for some awesome Rustichella d`abruzzo noodles called casareccia -- they look like ziti sliced down one side. The main thing here is to not cook the noodles all the way through -- they`re headed into a sauce and then the oven for an hour, so they will mush-up too much if you cook them all the way. The casareccia is supposed to be done in 8-10 mins, I let them boil for 7 and it worked fine.

By now, your bechamel should be ready. Take it off the heat, and mix in 3/4 cup of parmesan. Then whisk in the yolks from the three eggs. When you separate the eggs, keep the whites since you`re supposed to whisk those up and mix them with the cooked noodles and the remaining cheese. I found the egg whites on the counter when I was about to put the casserole in the oven, so I clearly forgot that part.

Ok! Build your casserole: you need a 9x13 inch pan for this. Put down a layer of noodles (noodles mixed with egg white and cheese if you remembered to do it), then add the meat sauce (use a spoon to put it in so it doesn`t blast the layer of noodles out of the way when you pour it in), then add another layer of noodles. How do you like my awesome pan? My bro`and his wife got it for me for Christmas. Wolfgang Puck no-less. Cast iron too! So awesome!!

Pour the bechamel on top, and if you forgot to do the egg white thing with the noodles, you may as well sprinkle the reserved parmesan on top of that. This looks like a pretty full pan, and I was a little worried that it would blow over the edge in the oven. The bechamel didn`t puff up much though, so it worked-out just fine.

Let the top brown for an hour, haul it outta there, and eat up! See the vote of approval? It was really, really, good. Watch out though -- this casserole holds the heat so if you take a big mouthful right off the bat, you`re history (you`re supposed to let it cool for 20 minutes before serving -- good luck).

Καλή όρεξη! (Kalí óreksi!)


  1. I just spent 20 minutes trying to find the bull in the two uncooked casserole photos. Am I blind?

    This looks amazing; you crack me up!

  2. 20 minutes!!!!! omg, and i thought i was crazy!! :D :D