GREEK PASTITSIO

This is a wonderful Greek casserole dish that is an oven baked family favourite. There are really three components to this dish that make it so simple and appealing... for one, there is the thick rich meat sauce on the bottom, next there is the layer of cooked pasta (and really who doesn't love pasta in a dish), and finally, there is that thick creamy béchamel sauce right on top. Bake all of these layers together and you get a fantastic combination of flavours. The one thing that makes this dish quite unique is the addition of ground cinnamon. There is enough in there to make it slightly noticeable but not enough to turn you off. It really enhances the flavour of the meat. I was so impressed by this recipe and will definitely make it again.

Adapted and modified from the "chicken pastitsio" recipe in The Ultimate Chicken Cookbook (1996). Written by: Linda Fraser

Serves 4-6

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Baking time: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • coarse salt and ground black pepper
  • 5 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1-1/4 cup red wine or beef stock
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (use less if you like)
  • 1 box of chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 2-1/2 cups cooked tubular pasta (macaroni, penne etc.)
  • 1-1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 4 tbsp whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F and if you wish line a wide casserole dish with foil for easy clean up. Heat oil in a large shallow skillet, on medium high heat, and cook the ground meat, onion and garlic. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown in colour. Stir in the tomato paste, red wine and cinnamon. Once everything comes together, add in the chopped defrosted spinach. Add a bit more liquid if needed. Once everything is cooked through turn the heat off.

2. To make the béchamel sauce, pour in the milk, butter and flour into a saucepan. On medium heat, whisk the ingredients together until thick and smooth. Add in the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Layering the casserole: Ladle the meat sauce into the bottom of the casserole dish, then layer on the cooked pasta on top, then finally pour on the béchamel sauce. Place the sliced tomatoes evenly over top of the béchamel covered pasta, sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and place in the oven to bake for 30-35 minutes. Serve immediately.


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