My kids favorite! Great for lunchboxes, too. And the only real dinner I cooked this week. The holiday season left me completely cooked out… 🙂 If you’re not Greek, can I reassure you it’s very easy to make and, yes, please, give it a try to see for yourself?
- one packet really big spaghetti (no 2) available in Greek stores (fine to use rigatoni from the supermarket)
- a tablespoon olive oil (or butter)
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds minced meat (beef)
- half cup red wine optional
- one big can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
- salt, pepper, oregano
- 2-3 cinnamon sticks
- For the bechamel: 1 1/2 stick butter (that’s 12 tablespoons), 12 tablespoons flour, 4 cups warm/hot milk, salt, pepper, 1 cup grated Parmesan and 3-4 eggs optionally
- More Parmesan for when you arrange all in a pan
How to make: Cook the past a in boiling and salted water according to package instructions. Strain and rinse with cold water. Set aside. In big saucepan, saute the onions first, then add the meat and saute until it turns brown (stir with a wooden spoon). Add the wine if you want and cook for a few more minutes. Add salt, pepper, oregano. Then add the crushed tomatoes and the cinnamon sticks and cook at low heat for half an hour. After both the pasta and the meat sauce are ready, get started with the bechamel. Heat the butter in a pot at low heat. At low heat! Add flour and mix using a whisk. Using a whisk! That’s all you need to do to be sure there will be no lumps. Use a whisk. Add a little salt and pepper. Then gradually add the heated milk and stir vigorously using the whisk. Take the bechamel off the heat when it’s become nice and creamy. Add Parmesan and the eggs lightly beaten. Now, off to arrange all in a pan. Spread a layer of pasta. Sprinkle with Paremesan. Add the meat sauce as another layer. Add remaining pasta as a third layer. Then spread the bechamel evenly on top and sprinkle some more Parmesan on top. That’s it! Cook in pre-heated 375 F oven for about 45 minutes or until the top is brown (see photo).
Notes and tips: We call bechamel the white sauce version that has eggs in it. In the past, I made the `bechamel’ sauce with and without eggs and I liked it both ways. The one in the photo is with eggs, and by the puffiness of it, I think I probably used self-rising flour instead of plain all-purpose flour. So, when you make the sauce with the eggs, pastichio gets its clear layered look and the top is more yellow and firm. When I don’t use eggs, I make the white sauce a tad thinner so it drips in the pasta and makes the whole dish creamier throughout. A less traditional version but equally yummy. Your choice! The cinnamon sticks are important, don’t leave them out.