Pastitsio, also called macaronia tou fournou is a Greek pasta dish, if it was Italian it would be a pasta al forno sort of dish called pasticcio.

Basically it is a macaroni, tomato and meat sauce and béchamel layered dish, baked in the oven.

I have seen lots of different recipes, some with beef and others with lamb or a mixture of both. The main flavourings are oregano, cinnamon and allspice in the sauce and you can use pretty much any tubed pasta. Bucatini is good, if you want to make it look impressive.

Some versions of the béchamel are enriched with egg yolks and others include cheese, kefalotiri to be authentic or pecorino or even Parmesan if that is all you have available.

In some versions you layer pasta, bound up with eggs and cheese, then layer on the meat, with more pasta and then the béchamel on top.

I occasionally do that, but it is pretty heavy and filling, so my basic version is just one layer of pasta, grated cheese, meat sauce and finally béchamel with more cheese. Mine tends to be a bit less solid than the classic recipes too, it sits in the stomach a bit easier that way. Greek versions tend to be solid enough to cut into squares.

The meat sauce is a simple onion and garlic sofrito, lamb (or beef) mince sautéed until it loses the pinkness, tinned chopped tomatoes, the herbs and spices, a splash of red wine vinegar and a half teaspoonful of sugar and a big squeeze of tomato purée plus some water and simmered for at least an hour until thick and reduced. If it gets too thick, add some more water. It is important that it has a longish, slow cooking.

As it is a heavy and filling dish, it is best served with a simple green salad and a robust red wine, something from southern France would be ideal or perhaps one of the better Greek reds, if you can find them. Oddbins stock an excellent example, the Cretan Mirambelo.

Tonight we dranks the 2008 Grand Reserve de Gassac from the Mas de Daumas Gassac in the Herault, a rich blend of numerous grape varieties that is only entitled to be a Vin de Pays but is considerably better than some more expensive reds with the Coteaux du Languedoc AOC. The Grand Reserve is, I think, made exclusively for Laithwaites and is available from their website and their other outlets, such as the Sunday Times Wine Club.


One thought on “Pastitsio

  1. That looks absolutely gorgeous, Carole. I’m going to have a go of that. We’ve been running out of “new” recipes round here lately and this has given me some inspiration.

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