Pastitsio is a classic Greek comfort food. It is like a lasagna, where it involves layering up some pasta, meat ragu, bechamel sauce, and baked till golden. Nevertheless, Pastitsio is distinctly different from lasagna – especially on the type of pasta used. In Pastitsio, you use this specific type of pasta called Greek Macaroni Pastitsio Noodles. It is long like spaghetti but shaped like a tube. I’m not sure where exactly you can find it in London but a friend of mine found it at a local Greek supermarket in far North London.
It’s more of a typical home dish rather than restaurant dish. A very close relative of this dish is Moussaka, which is very popular in restaurants.
How I came across Pastitsio
Here’s a little random story of how I encountered Pastitsio. When I was young, my parents took us to Thailand for summer vacation every year. At a shopping mall in Bangkok, there’s this big food hall where there’s a huge variety of cuisines available. Every year when we go, I would try a different stall/cuisine. Then there’s this one year, I stumbled across a Greek stall and saw the Pastitsio. Young picky me almost ignored it as I was clueless on what it actually is. Someone then explained to me it’s like a lasagna – I was sold. I got it, absolutely loved it, and was hooked ever since.
Bangkok was the only place I had it. To my dismay, I couldn’t find it while I was on holiday in Athens a couple years ago. A friend of mine who’s from Cyprus then explained to me how it’s more of a home dish rather than being in restaurants. She said I probably could still find it around Athens but I would have to go into very local areas and small family-run restaurants to find it.
Then one day, the very same friend said she managed to find some Pastitsio Pasta. So she then asked her mother for the recipe and was planning to make it. She then kindly invited me over for it. It was a fun girls cooking night / sleepover. I got to learn how to make it and of course feasting it afterwards. It has really hit the spot and I couldn’t explain how incredibly happy I was. So here I am sharing this happy recipe with you guys, hoping you guys can get a taste of this glorious dish and feel the happiness from me. Enjoy!
- Pastitsio Pasta
- 225 g Halloumi Cheese (1 pack) grated
- 1 Egg White
- 15 g Parsley chopped
for the Bolognaise
- 650 g Mince (I used a mix of Beef & Lamb)
- 1 Onion finely chopped
- 1 clove Garlic minced
- 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
- 1 can Chopped Tomato
- 1-2 Bay Leaves
- 500 mL Beef Stock
- 1 tsp Oregano
- 1/2 tsp Chilli Flakes (optional)
for the Bechamel Sauce
- 1-2 tbsp Unsalted Butter
- 3 tbsp Flour
- 2-3 cups Milk
- 1 Egg Yolk
- pinch of grounded Nutmeg
- pinch of grounded Cinnamon
- 5 g Vegetable Stock cube / powder
Making the Bolognaise
- Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan. Sweat Onions until softened and turn golden in colour. Add in Garlic and a pinch of Chilli Flakes (if using) and cook for another two minutes or so until fragrant.
- Briefly season with salt and pepper, and stir in the mince. Brown the mince and add in oregano, bay leaf.
- Stir in tomato paste and add a pinch of cinnamon. Briefly stir until evenly coated. Then add in the chopped tomatoes and beef stock. Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until reduced.
- Stir in the parsley. Discard bay leaves and set aside.
Making the Bechamel Sauce
- In a saucepan, melt the butter and add in the flour to make a roux.
- Pour in a cup of milk and stir until smooth. Repeat with second cup of milk.
- Season with pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon.
- Add in the remaining milk and whisk until it starts to thicken up.
- Whisk in half of the grated halloumi cheese. Blend until it attains a thick consistency.
- Remove from heat and stir in egg yolk. Set aside.
Making the Pastitsio and assembling it all together
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Boil a pot of salted water and cook the Pastitsio pasta according to package instructions. Strain.
- Layer Pastitsio pasta at the bottom of the baking tray. Brush with egg whites.
- Sprinkle a third of grated halloumi cheese. Pour in the meat mixture on top.
- Add another layer of pasta and top with grated halloumi cheese.
- Pour in the Bechamel sauce and top with more grated halloumi cheese.
- Bake for 45 minutes until bubbling and golden in colour. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.