If you’ve never heard of Pastitsio, you don’t know what you’re missing. This Classic Greek Lasagna is made with a layer of bucatini pasta, topped with a hearty beef ragu, and finished with a layer of thick and creamy béchamel sauce. It’s heaven on a plate.
I first encountered this delicious Greek Casserole on a trip my wife, and I took to Greece. We were lucky enough to meet up with old friends, and they took us to their favorite local restaurant, where the night’s special was Pastitsio. And for me, it was love at first bite.
This Greek pasta bake is comfort food taken to a new level of deliciousness. It’s a delicious alternative to Italian Lasagna and don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients. My Greek Pastitsio Recipe is easy to make and I’m sure your family will agree that it was time well spent in your kitchen.
Ingredients to make Pastitsio
Let’s start by gathering the ingredients we need to make Greek Pastitsio. In Chef Speak, this is called the “Mise en Place,” which translates to “Everything in its Place.”
Not only does setting up your ingredients ahead of time speed up the cooking process, it also helps ensure you have everything you need to make the dish.
How to make the beef filling for Pastitsio
- Add the olive oil, chopped garlic cloves, and onion to a large pot (or Dutch oven) over high heat.
- Let them cook for 2 – 3 minutes until the onion is softened.
- Add the ground beef to the pot and stir the beef to break it up as it cooks ( I like to use a wire whisk).
- Continue to cook the beef until it’s browned with no visible red.
- Add the red wine to the pot to deglaze the pan, scraping all the tasty bits off the bottom of the pot. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes until the wine has mostly evaporated.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasonings to the ground beef.
- Stir the meat mixture until all the ingredients have been blended into the sauce.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, allowing it to continue to simmer.
- Cook for 45 -55 minutes until the liquid has cooked off. Continue to stir during the process until you have a fairly thick meat sauce.
- Remove the sauce from the stove and allow it to cool to room temperature before assembling.
How to make bechamel sauce
- Add the unsalted butter to a medium saucepan.
- Melt butter over medium heat.
- Add the flour to the melted butter.
- Stir the butter into the flour to make the roux. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook the roux for 2-3 minutes.
- Slowly pour the milk into the roux whisking the mixture while adding the milk. Whisk the mixture until it is lump free.
- Continue to cook the mixture, stirring as it thickens (4-5 minutes) until the sauce has thickened to a heavy cream soup consistency.
- Remove the sauce from the stove and stir in the nutmeg, cheese, and salt. *Allow the sauce to cool for 5 minutes.
- After the sauce has cooled slightly, quickly whisk in the room-temperature egg yolks. Cover the sauce and set aside off the heat until needed. *If the sauce cools too much and is too thick to pour, reheat it over low heat until pourable. If necessary, add a little water to the sauce.
Traditionally Kefalotyri cheese is used to make this dish. If you can’t find this greek cheese, you can use grated Romano cheese or parmesan cheese as the substitute.
- Cook the pasta per instructions on the box for aldente, then drain the pasta, making sure to get rid of any excess liquid and return it to the pot it was cooked in.
- Allow the pasta to cool for 2- 3 minutes, then add the egg whites and mix until the pasta is well coated.
- Add the crumbled feta cheese to the pasta and mix well
*I prefer bucatini as my pastitsio noodles, but you can also use tubular pasta of your choice, such as rigatoni or ziti for the pasta layer.
How to assemble Pastitsio
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Spray a baking dish ( 9 x 13 x 2.75″) with pan spray. Add the pasta layer to the baking dish arranging the pasta (as best you can) in the baking dish so the noodles are all going in the same direction. Smooth the mixture, so it’s an even layer. This will give you visual appeal when it’s sliced.
- Top the pasta with the meat sauce, leveling the surface of the sauce.
- Pour the Béchamel sauce over the meat sauce, leveling it out as best as possible.
- Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the sauce.
- Place the casserole dish on the center rack of the preheated oven and bake for 30 min or until the top turns golden brown.
- Allow the Pastitsio to cool for 10 -15 minutes before slicing to allow it to set up.
After one bite, I know you’re going to love pastitsio, and I guarantee it will soon become a family favorite.
Moussaka uses potato and eggplant at the base of the dish, and pasticcio uses pasta noodles. The meat and bechamel layers of Moussaka and Pasticcio are very similar.
Pastitsio can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time. Keep it well-covered and refrigerated until it’s time to bake.
Yes, it can, but it should be frozen after it has been baked. It can be cut up into individual portions, wrapped in plastic wrap, and stored in an air-tight container for up to 3 months in the freezer.