Presto Pasta Night #18: Pastitsio

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
4 eggs
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
Parmesan cheese

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.

11 thoughts on “Presto Pasta Night #18: Pastitsio

  1. Brittany

    This looks like heaven! I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks now (a fellow central Ohioan) and I have to say that I am quite impressed with your escapades! I love and appreciate food, as well, and to see you appreciate it in the light you do is inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Suganya

    I made a similar one last winter – Butternut squash lasagna. The bechamel was heavenly with the sweet squash. Love yr version too 🙂

  3. Amanda

    I had this for the first time on Monday evening and I loved it – so did my children. I didn’t take the recipe down as we were too busy chatting but now I can use yours. Thank you.

  4. Deborah Dowd

    I love pastitsio, and I make mine based on a recipe I got from a cookbook published by my local Greek church. I particularly love the custard top with the cinnmon taste!

  5. Dolores

    I discovered (and fell in love with) Pastitsio on my brother’s 16th birthday — which we celebrated at a local Greek restaurant. I’ve been looking for the perfect recipe ever since. Can’t wait to give yours a try!

  6. Sue

    Your recipe sounds wonderful. I have been making a vegetarian pastitsio (using meatless beef substitute) for about 10 years (for my vegetarian son & his friends). The recipe came from the Vegetarian Times, April, 1997. My husband, a meat & potatoes man, also thoroughly enjoys this dish. My problem now is that I can no longer find the long ziti. Yesterday I tried Genoa Deli in Walnut Creek. They carried it for years, but no longer. Any suggestions where I might find it?

  7. Momo

    I’m giving this recipe a shot tonight – can’t wait since the Greek food festival ran out of pastitsio by the time we got there and I was so upset!

    Sue, you can get the long ziti and the kefalotiri cheese (as well as a few other essential cheeses!) at this Hellenic store I stumbled upon in the Mission district a few weeks ago called Hellenic American Imports- 2365 Mission street between 19th and 20th.

    you can also get them if you go to the Greek Food Festivals.

  8. Momo

    I tried this recipe on Tuesday night- absolutely delicious and worth the two variations of bechamel!

    I have no idea how this was all going to fit it the pan but I somehow got it all in there- I had to leave some of the thick bechamel sauce out or else it would have just flowed over the side of the pan. We also used half ground beef, half lamb for a more authentic flavor- half of each seemed better proportionally as all lamb would have been too overpowering for my palate. I also added moreo than a dash of cinnamon, more like a 1/4 teaspoon.

    one note, the recipe was a little confusing as it says, “Place a layer of pasta in the baking pan; then add half the thin cream sauce.” however, it doesn’t say anywhere to put another layer of the pasta, and the wording alludes to more than one layer. I just ended up stacking the rest of the noodles on top of the meat and bechamel layer. It ended up tasting delicious of course, but I am a literalist.

    The cheese definitely makes the dish, so try your best to get your hands on kefalotiri!

    Thanks for the recipe!

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