Pastitsio, by Beverly Hicks Burch

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Pastitsio

Last week I fed my Tall & Handsome his latest version of Turkish Delight

There are many things I cook that T & H truly enjoys. He loves having a wife who has, among other things, culinary skills and the reverse of that is I adore having a husband with culinary skills (among his excellent qualities). (Last night when I was feeling puny he made me one of the best scramble egg sandwiches just to pamper me and take care of me.)

T & H and I love ethnic foods of all kind. We love Thai, Chinese, Tex-Mex, Mexican, Italian, Indian, Lebanese you name it. And, he loves good old fashioned Southern cooking which I can excel at. Many times we have learned to prepared and enjoy these ethnic, exotic sounding dishes.

One ethnic culinary experience we enjoy is good Greek food. I know hummus is kind of a regional Middle Eastern dish, but we often get it at one of our favorite Greek eateries. We like it so much we’re contemplating experimenting making hummus ourselves. (I love hummus with roasted red bell peppers.) Then, there’s baklava, gyros, Greek salads and one of my personal favorites, spanakopita.

One dish we have really taken to is Pastitsio and as a result, I am on a quest for a great Pastitsio recipe. (Yes, yet another recipe quest.) A couple of years ago we tried a recipe that was pretty good, and I would certainly consider making again.

But…

I think I have found…just maybe, the Pastitsio recipe for our quest.

The hint I just might have hit pay dirt with the recipe quest came when T & H walked in the door last Wednesday after work and said, “Wow, honey it smells fabulous in here. I could smell it the minute I opened the door.”

“Go, get change and we’ll have dinner. I hope it tastes as good as it smells.’

So I dished us up a couple of plates and served T & H up a piping hot plate of Pastitsio.

The next hint I was verging on “Bingo” was when I heard the “mmm mmm mmm’s” coming from the other side, the thumbs up I kept receiving and the, “Honey, this is wonderful!” (The fact that T & H also eagerly looked forward to leftovers the next few night was a good clue, too.)

When it was all said and done one definite conclusion could be drawn: I would be making this dish again.

I found the original recipe in the April 2012 issue of the Food Network Magazine. As usual, I’ve made a few changes and adaptations, but the end result was one fantastic dish. Serve with a salad or side vegetable.

Pastitsio

For the pasta and the meat filling:

1 pound ziti

1 – 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound lean ground beef

1 onion, chopped

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

½ cup dry white wine

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

Ground black pepper

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

4 tablespoons butter

2 large eggs, beaten

2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

For the Béchamel:

4 tablespoons butter

¼ cups all purpose flour

3 cups plain Greek yogurt (I used Oikos 0%)

2 large eggs, beaten

Freshly grated nutmeg to taste (a pinch or more depending on how much you prefer)

Kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a 13 x 9 inch baking dish or other large baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray. (I like to use the olive oil spray to keep an authentic flavor.)

2. Prepare pasta in according to package for al dente.

3. Start the meat filling while pasta is cooking. (I recommend chopping ingredients before starting the process.) On medium-high heat cook ground beef until it is browned, breaking up the meat while it cooks. This should take about 5 minutes.

4. Drain beef. Add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, and heat the oil until hot. Add the meat back into the pan. Then add the chopped onion and ground cinnamon and cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

5. Add the Worcestershire sauce and the wine and cook for 2 more minutes until the wine starts to evaporate.

6. Next, add the can of tomato sauce, 2 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper. Bring to a simmer.

7. Stir in fresh chopped parsley and cook, stirring occasionally until the meat filling begins to thicken, for about 20 minutes.

8. Stir in 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs and remove from heat.

9. When the pasta is done, drain the pasta and return the pasta to the pot (off the heat).

10. Stir in the butter, 2 beaten eggs and 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Stir to coat pasta.

11. Spread half the pasta into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Then spoon the meat filling on top of the pasta layer. Next, spoon the remaining half of the pasta mixture on top of the meat filling.

12. Make the Béchamel sauce next. Begin by melting the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour. Cook for 1 minute, whisking while cooking. (Do not let the mixture brown.)

13. Next whisk in the yogurt and ¾ cup of water. Gently simmer, whisking until slightly thickened, for about 5 minutes. (Do not let mixture boil.)

14. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in beaten eggs. (You could begin my tempering the eggs first.) Also whisk in freshly grated nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt.

15. Pour the Béchamel sauce over the pasta in the baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese on top and the remaining 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs.

16. Bake until golden, for about 40 to 45 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy…really!!!

Greek Pastitsio

Greek Pastitsio b

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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