Greek Pastitio (Meaty Macaroni w Creamy Bechamel)
Macaroni nestled in a meaty Greek-spiced tomato sauce with a creamy Parmesan Bechamel sauce on top.
Also spelled Pasticcio. I hear that Pastitio is the Greek spelling, while Pasticcio is the Italian spelling. I’m not Greek or Italian, so I’m not quite sure what the “correct” spelling is and I’m sure I don’t make it quite like they do, but this dish, it’s amazing. I’ve made it many times, and my daughter and I both adore it. My son even ventured to try it last weekend and … he ate it! A whole bunch of it, even. There is a lot of ethnic food energy in this house lately … I can’t even tell you how excited I am to see my kids trying new foods from other countries and LIKING them! Yes!
Still, I did manage to save enough for my girl’s International birthday party … I wrapped several little ramekins and put them in the freezer and I’m hoping they thaw out and cook up okay at party time. I think they should. Writing about it now, I’m kind of tempted to pull one out and cook it up for dinner … but no, I’ll be good and save them.
I adapted this recipe from Betty Crocker’s New International Cookbook. I reduced the butter in the Bechamel sauce a LOT; just a hint of butter provides that good buttery flavor without so much fat. Use whole wheat or quinoa macaroni if you want to add heart-healthy fiber to the meal. (I used regular pasta this time because I am having trouble finding whole wheat large macaroni and to me, Pastitsio just NEEDS to be made with large macaroni.) I also reduced the salt and upped the cinnamon and nutmeg, because the spices give it so much good flavor!
- 6 oz. large macaroni (whole wheat or quinoa macaroni is even better), cooked according to package directions
- 1 small onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 lb. very lean ground beef or venison
- 1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce (or a 15 oz can)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 1/4 cups of lowfat milk (I used 2% this time)
- 1/2 Tablespoon butter
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2.5 oz. freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Put a pot of water on the stove to cook the macaroni and get it cooking according to the package directions.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Peel the onion and chop it into large chunks, then peel the garlic too and put them both in a handi chopper and chop till they are just tiny bits.
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat, then add the ground meat and chopped garlic & onion and sautee, stirring frequently, until the meat is browned and cooked and the onion is soft and translucent. Stir in the tomato sauce, cinnamon, salt, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and stir and cook until the mixture is hot.
- Drain the macaroni and stir it together with the meat sauce. Spray a 9x9x2 inch square baking pan or several individual ramekins with cooking spray and spread the macaraoni & meat sauce flat in the pan, pressing down with a spoon to flatten and compress the mixture a bit.
- Now, cook the cheese sauce. In a saucepan, heat the milk and butter till hot and the butter is melted.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the eggs till they are well beaten, then whisk in about half of the hot milk mixture. Add the egg mixture in a slow stream back into the saucepan, whisking constantly with one hand while pouring with the other. Reserve about 1/3 of the cheese, then add the rest of the cheese and remaining nutmeg to the sauce and continue cooking and whisking for just a couple minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the meaty macaroni mixture, spreading with a spoon to cover the ramekins or baking dish.
- Sprinkle with the remaining cheese, add cherry tomato halves if you like to garnish the top and bake at 325 for about 50 minutes if you are using a 9x9 inch pan or about 30 minutes for ramekins, or until the top just starts to get golden brown on the edges and everything is good and hot and bubbly.
- Garnish with fresh oregano or parsley and serve hot.
I've also seen it spelled Pasticcio ... either way, Pastitsio is very nice served with a green salad and garlic toast.
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