Greek restaurants all over the world prepare Pasticcio (also known as Pastitsio or Pastichio). Not surprisingly, families and taverns all over Greece also make it. Most families follow a recipe passed on to them by a dear family member and then adjusted over time to satisfy personal taste.
What is Pasticcio?
Those unfamiliar with Pasticcio may wonder what is this romantic-sounding dish. The easiest way to describe it would be as a Greek version of lasagna bolognese. This is not entirely fair as a comparison.
In Greece, cooks customarily prepare Pasticcio with a special long and hollow pasta especially designed for this traditional Greek dish. Outside Greece, this special Pasticcio pasta is hard to find (see below for substitution suggestions). The meat sauce in Pasticcio contains fewer spices and vegetables than in Italian lasagna. Ok, Pasticcio and lasagna bolognese are different dishes, even if they may share a couple points in common.
Learning how to make Pasticcio from a friend
So let me return to my story about preparing an authentic Pasticcio recipe. As many of you know, I’ve been staying in Xanthi, Greece a few weeks during my Journey to Greece. An old university friend, Diamatis, and his family live in the city of Xanthi and generously offered me their home in a nearby village called Gerakas (population of 26 in 2001), in the Rodopi mountainside to the north of Xanthi. The views from the Gerakas home are breathtaking. Resting in this remote rustic setting has been exactly what I needed to rejuvenate.
My friend’s wife, Thomais, is a magnificent cook and has graciously offered to teach me how to make some of her favorite family recipes. So far, she has taught me three traditional Greek recipes: Pasticcio, Gemista (Greek Stuffed Peppers and Tomatoes) and Papoutsakia (“Little Shoes” or Stuffed Eggplant). Click on the above links to try these tasty authentic recipes brought from Thomais’ home to yours. You will certainly be rewarded for your effort.
Preparing Pasticcio requires three basic steps before assembling and placing the dish into the oven: preparing the meat sauce, then the pasta, and last the improved Béchamel sauce. None of these steps is very complicated or time consuming. In less than an hour the Pasticcio will be ready to place into the oven.
Pasticcio with a special long noodle with a hollow center (see photo above). Finding this exact noodle outside of Greece can be a challenge. If you can’t find it, I’d recommend buying Anna Long Ziti Pasta #19 or using penne pasta or lasagna sheets. The pasta should be semi-thick and long, if possible.
You can prepare this dish in advance and then bake it when it’s ready to be served. Or cook it almost all the way in the oven and then store it in the refrigerator until the next day to be reheated before serving.
Try this authentic Pasticcio dish soon and share this reliable recipe with your friends using the social media buttons below.
Authentic Greek Pasticcio
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Prepare this homestyle Pasticcio recipe to bring a touch of Greece to your family's table. Enjoy the authenticity and flavor of this traditional Greek dish.
50gKefalotyricheese grated (or Romano Pecorino or Manchego) (see notes)
Add while Assembling
50 gKefalotyricheese grated (or Romano Pecorino or Manchego) (see notes)
Pour olive oil and butter into a hot pan over a high heat
Add chopped onion and continue to cook about 5 minutes until the onions are translucent.
Add ground veal or beef meat and cook about 5 minutes until brown all over.
Add nutmeg bay leaves, allspice, salt and pepper and continue to cook one minute.
Add the tomato paste and tomato passata. Continue to cook a few minutes.
Add water, mix and reduce heat to low. Continue to cook covered about 5 to 10 minutes until you have a thick sauce consistency.
Fill two-thirds (2/3) of a pot with water. Add olive oil and salt. Bring to a boil.
Add the Pasticcio pasta or lasagna pasta. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes less than time indicated on the pasta package. The pasta will still be a bit firm, as it will cook further in the oven.
Strain the pasta.
Add a little butter so the pasta doesn't stick to each other. Put aside.
In a pot, mix with a whisk the milk, flour, butter, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. All ingredients should be cold or at room temperature. Make sure to stir frequently to prevent lumps.
Put the pot over a medium heat on the stove. Continue heating and stirring until you see small bubbles on top.
Reduce heat and continue stirring until you reach a sauce consistency (like pancake batter). Remember, the sauce will probably thicken a little more when baking in the dish.
Remove from heat. Add the cheese and mix.
Assembling the Dish
Preheat oven to 200°C (390°F). Butter lightly a baking dish.
Add half of the pasta on the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle a couple pinches of grated cheese.
Add all the meat sauce on top of the pasta. Sprinkle a couple pinches of grated cheese.
Add the remaining half of the pasta on top. Sprinkle a couple pinches of grated cheese.
Pour all the improved béchamel sauce on top. Make sure everything is covered with the sauce.
Put baking dish into the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly brown on top.
Serve and enjoy!
Kefalotyri is a hard salty yellow cheese made of milk from goat and/or sheep. You want this cheese to be aged at least 3 months so it can be grated. If you do not have Kefalotyri cheese, try substituting with a medium-aged Romano Pecorino or Manchego cheese. To me, these would be the most similar in taste.
The amount of flour you add will depend on how thick you want your Béchamel sauce. If you want a thicker, more consistent sauce, you may want to add about 10% to 20% more flour and increase the amount of butter accordingly.