My Big Fat Greek Meat & Pasta Casserole

Total Time
3hrs
Prep 1 hr
Cook 2 hrs

My recipe for Pastitsio, the classic Greek meat-and-pasta dish, takes a bit of work but is so worth it. This can prepared with all ground beef, or a ground beef/lamb blend. Recipe may be halved and baked in slightly less time in an 8 x 8 baking dish (remember to use exactly half of all listed ingredients!).

Ingredients Nutrition

Directions

  1. IN a large food processor, chop 1 large onion, 1 medium bell pepper, one handful pitted kalamata olives, 1 handful flat leaf parsley leaves, and 8-12 garlic cloves.
  2. HEAT 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; ADD the above chopped vegetables, 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef, 1 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper; SAUTE until meat is browned and vegetables have softened.
  3. ADD 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes, 3/4 cup dry Greek red wine, 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons Greek honey, 1 1/4 teaspoons crushed dried oregano, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1/2 tablespoon ouzo or 1/4 teaspoon pure anise extract, 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon crushed dried mint, 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper, 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes, and 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese; STIR well; COVER; REDUCE heat; SIMMER for 45 minutes or longer (sauce will be thick); RE-SEASON sauce to taste with fine sea salt if needed (leave sauce just slightly under-salted since sauce will concentrate while baking).
  4. SEPARATE 4 large eggs and retain yolks in a medium to large mixing bowl (refrigerate egg whites sealed, for another use while fresh); WHISK in 4 cups whole milk until smooth; ADD 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1 level teaspoon fine sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper, 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 pinch cayenne pepper; WHISK again until blended; SET aside.
  5. MELT 1/2 cup salted butter over low heat; ADD 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and cook for just one minute; POUR milk and egg mixture all at once into roux while whisking constantly; CONTINUE whisking often until sauce thickens up and begins to bubble; REMOVE from heat; WHISK in 3/4 cup powdered parmesan cheese until smooth and glossy; COVER loosely with plastic wrap; BLEND 1/2 cup of the BECHAMEL into the fully-simmered SAUCE.
  6. COOK the PASTA according to package directions for al dente (salt the boiling water and add olive oil to prevent boiling over); ALLOW to drain; MEANWHILE, into previous empty boiling pot add 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon minced flat leaf parsley, 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper; STIR; ADD drained pasta and toss; RE-MOISTEN pasta if needed with water.
  7. PREHEAT oven to 350 F; SPRAY a 2-3 quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray; SPREAD 1/2 (one half) of the PASTA in bottom of baking dish; POUR the entire SAUCE mixture then smooth; ADD the remaining pasta over the SAUCE; POUR all of the BECHAMEL sauce over the pasta; LEVEL and smooth bechamel sauce. NOTE: YOU CAN SPRINKLE THE TOP OF CASSEROLE NOW LIGHTLY WITH GRATED PARMESAN CHEESE (PLUS MINCED FRESH PARSLEY IF DESIRED) OR YOU CAN GARNISH WHILE STILL HOT, JUST AFTER BAKING.
  8. BAKE for 1 hour.
  9. ALLOW to set 20 minutes before slicing.
  10. SERVE and enjoy!