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  Warm from the Oven: Pastichio

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Ah, pastichio. Warm, gooey and with just the amount of sauce and cheese, this Greek ‘lasagna’ brings back memories of a rainy fall afternoon in the Greek Islands and a little restaurant called Maro’s.  It’s the perfect meal to make on a cold Sunday afternoon, as you’ll have plenty of warm leftovers to get you through a hectic week ahead.

Pastichio, also spelled pastitsio, is one of those old family favorites that every Greek grandmother across the globe has their own recipe stashed away on a tomato sauce stained recipe card.  It’s also a staple at our local Greek Orthodox Church’s annual dinner – an event not to be missed with cars and people lined up around the block during a few cold days each November.

It’s layers of ziti, penne or macaroni pasta with a rich meat sauce made of finely ground lamb (or beef most commonly in the States) with a hint of cinnamon, a rich and creamy béchamel sauce and if you’re lucky Greek myzithra cheese or if not, equally good grated parmesan. 

The next time you’re looking for something warm from the oven – try Pastichio.

Pastichio or Greek 'Lasagna'
This recipe is a four-step process. First, make the béchamel or cream sauce for the topping, second begin the sauce, third cook the pasta, and lastly, pile all of it into a 13 by 9 pan and bake until the béchamel browns and puffs and the cheese is melted.

Béchamel, creamy milk and egg sauce:
˝ stick (4 tbs) butter
1 cup half and half
2 cups skimmed milk
4 eggs
˝ cup flour
Heat butter, half and half, and milk to simmering. Meanwhile, beat eggs and flour together. Add a bit of the simmering liquid to the eggs, whisking it in to temper the eggs. Then, add the remaining egg/flour mixture to the heated butter and milk, return to the stove and over medium heat, stirring constantly and not allowing to boil, cook until it is simmering and thickened.  Remove from heat.

Bring pasta water to a boil:  salt and add 1 lb of pasta (ziti, penne or macaroni) and boil until al dente.

Make the Meat Sauce:
1 ˝ lbs ground lamb or ground beef
1 onion, finely minced
2 tbs olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, grated
3 tbs tomato paste
1 cup plain tomato sauce
˝ tsp cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, finely break-up and brown the lamb and the onion in the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the tomato paste and work into the browned meat. Add the garlic and tomato sauce and continue to cook until heated through.  Lastly, season with the cinnamon, salt and pepper.

To assemble: 

Need ˝ lb of grated myzithra (a Greek sheep’s milk cheese) or Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Add drained pasta to the skillet and toss with the sauce and all of the cheese except for about ˝ cup of cheese that will be sprinkled over the top. Add a bit of the béchamel sauce to the pasta and sauce (about ˝ to 1 cup) – reserving most of the béchamel for the top of the dish. 

Grease a 9 by 13 pan and fill with the pasta and sauce, leveling the top. Pour over the remaining béchamel and sprinkle with the reserved cheese. Bake until the béchamel sauce is brown and bubbly.

 

Serves 16



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