For this week’s Presto Pasta Night, I asked my husband to prepare one of his specialties, a pastitsio that has both a thin and thick bechamel sauce. Although it’s more work than our normal pastitsio recipe (which just uses thick bechamel), the additional time needed to make this particular recipe is worth it, as it adds a solidity and extra creaminess to the final product that we don’t get otherwise.
We’ve used this particular recipe for years, so although I’ve found many incarnations of it on the internet (and I’m not sure which one to credit, as so many sites have the same recipe listed), the original origin of the recipe is unknown. If anyone does know, please let me know so that I may credit it properly.
Greek food is one of my favorite cuisines, and I haven’t quite decided yet which I like more – pastitsio or moussaka. Both are similar, but different in quite a few ways. I paired this with a spinach-feta pie, which I will blog about later.
Thin Cream Sauce:
4 tbsp. butter
1/3 c. all purpose flour
2 c. hot milk
2 egg yolks
Thick Cream Sauce:
4 c. milk
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. chopped onions
2 lbs. ground beef
4 tbsp. butter
2 c. Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
1 c. tomato sauce
1 tsp. dried or 1 tbsp. fresh chopped oregano
Dash of ground cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 1/4 lbs. tubular pasta (I used long ziti)
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1 c. fresh grated kefalatiri
Prepare Thin Sauce: Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in flour and cook until mixture turns golden. Gradually stir in hot milk and cook, stirring until sauce is smooth and hot. In a small bowl, beat egg yolks, then briskly stir 1 cup of hot milk mixture. Pour egg milk mixture into remaining sauce. Stir and remove from heat without cooking the eggs.
Prepare Thick Sauce: Heat milk to a simmer, and set aside. In a bowl, beat eggs with flour. Gradually stir hot milk into the egg mixture. Return to saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is quite thick. Do not boil after the eggs have been added.
Main Recipe: Brown chopped onions and meat in butter. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, spices and seasonings. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until liquid has been absorbed. Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees F. Cook pasta according to package directions, and drain. Sprinkle bread crumbs into a buttered 11x14x2 inch baking pan. Place a layer of pasta in the baking pan; then add half the thin cream sauce. Add meat. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup grated cheese. Cover with remaining thin cream sauce. Spread thick cream sauce over the top and sprinke it with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake for 1 hour, or until golden. Let stand for 15 minutes to cool, and cut into squares (Note that you cannot cut the Pastitsio easily unless you cool it for 15 minutes.) When ready to serve, reheat in hot oven
Note: This dish can be prepared a day in advance, adding the thick cream sauce just before baking the dish.