My Big Fat Greek Meat & Pasta Casserole

READY IN: 3hrs
SERVES: 12
UNITS: US

INGREDIENTS

Nutrition
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DIRECTIONS

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • BAKE for 1 hour.
  • ALLOW to set 20 minutes before slicing.
  • SERVE and enjoy!
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