Greek Lasagne (Pastitsio)

Greek Lasagne (Pastitsio)
Cinnamon and nutmeg add a warm, spicy note to noodles covered in a creamy Parmesan bechamel. See the recipe for Greek Lasagne (Pastitsio) »Michael Kraus

This creamy casserole of pasta and meat is enjoyed throughout Greece.

Greek Lasagne (Pastitsio)
This creamy casserole of pasta and meat sauce—covered with a creamy, rich béchamel—is enjoyed throughout Greece.
Yield: serves 10-12

For the Meat Sauce

  • 13 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and minced
  • 2 medium yellow onions, minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef, veal, or pork
  • 3 oz. dry-cured chorizo, minced
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 13 cup red wine
  • 14 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
  • 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 1 stick (about 2") cinnamon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

For the Béchamel and Pasta

  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 1 lb. No. 2 Greek macaroni, bucatini, or elbow macaroni
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Make the meat sauce: Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Add peppers and onions and cook, stirring often, until soft, 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer onion mixture to a plate and set aside. Add ground meat and chorizo to skillet and cook, breaking meat up into tiny pieces, until browned, 6-8 minutes. Add reserved onion mixture, along with tomatoes, wine, chile flakes, bay leaves, and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove sauce from heat, discard bay leaves and cinnamon, and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg; let cool.
  2. Make the bechamel: Heat butter in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until smooth and slightly toasted, 1-2 minutes. Add milk; cook, whisking often, until sauce coats the back of a spoon, 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat, add 3⁄4 cup cheese and egg yolks; season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir until smooth; set aside.
  3. Heat oven to 350°. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add pasta and cook halfway through, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk egg whites in a large bowl until frothy. Stir in remaining cheese; drain pasta in a colander and then toss with egg white-cheese mixture to coat evenly. Set aside.
  4. Grease a deep 9" x 13" baking dish with olive oil. Place half the pasta mixture on bottom of dish and cover evenly with meat sauce. Top with remaining pasta mixture. Pour bechamel over pasta, spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 1 hour. Transfer to wire rack; cool 20 minutes before serving.

Pairing Note: Look for a rich, zesty red like the 2007 Miliarakis Estate from Minos ($26), a kotsifali-mandilari blend with spice and heft. — David Rosengarten.