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Pastitsio (or pastichio) is a classic Greek baked pasta dish. Its name is based on the Italian word pasticcio, stemming from the Vulgar Latin word pastīcium, meaning "pasta," "pasty" or "pie."
With three major components -- pasta, a meat sauce and a béchamel -- the dish is almost like a classic lasagna, only bucatini or other tube-shaped pasta is used in lieu of the traditional flat and wide noodles in the Italian variety.
Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice feature in the dish, while the top is layered with a thick and creamy custard that develops a bubbly golden crust as it bakes. The hearty main course pairs wonderfully with a light Greek salad.
This recipe, adapted from Ina Garten, incorporates a mixture of beef, lamb and red wine to make a rich, succulent meat sauce for the base of the dish. A Greek yogurt-infused béchamel makes for an extra-creamy top.
For the meat sauce: 3 tbsp olive oil 1 large yellow onion, chopped 1 lb lean ground beef 1 lb lean ground lamb 1/2 cup dry red wine 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 tbsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp dried oregano 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves Pinch of cayenne pepper 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes in puree Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the béchamel: 1½ cups whole milk 1 cup heavy cream 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg 1 tsp salt 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 1½ cups freshly grated Parmesan or Kasseri cheese 2 extra-large eggs, beaten 2/3 cup Greek-style yogurt
For the pasta: 3/4 pound bucatini or other tube shaped pasta
For the sauce: In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and lamb and cook for about 8-10 minutes or until browned. Use a wooden spoon to break the meat up into crumbles as it's cooking. Drain off any excess fat, then add wine and cook for another 2 minutes. Mix in garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme and cayenne, and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes, 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 45 minutes. Taste and season as needed.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
For the béchamel: Heat milk and cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until simmering.
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In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in flour and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Pour the warmed cream mixture into the butter mixture, whisking constantly. Cook, stirring occasionally, until smooth and thick, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add nutmeg, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before mixing in eggs and yogurt.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Be careful not to over-cook because the pasta will continue cooking when baked.
Drain the pasta and toss with meat and tomato sauce. Pour the mixture into a baking dish and top with the béchamel. Use a rubber spatula to spread the bechamel evenly over pasta and sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden brown and bubbly. Let set for 10 minutes before serving hot.
See more Dishes of the Week: Dish of the Week: Coq Au Vin Dish of the Week: Argentine Chimichurri Dish of the Week: Flourless Chocolate Cake Dish of the Week: New England Clam Chowder Dish of the Week: Beef Stroganoff Dish of the Week: Hushpuppies Dish of the Week: Irish Soda Bread