pastitsio (greek lasagna)

pastitsioPastitsio is a Greek-style lasagna that was influenced by a recipe from the 16th century. Pasticcio di Maccheroni was a creation for the Grand Duchy of Ferrara and was very popular with Italian nobility. During that time, the Balkans and the Greek coastal regions were occupied by the Republic of Venice. And, of course, they brought their favorite dishes with them. 🙂  It’s also a very popular dish in Cyprus where ground pork is used rather than beef and halloumi cheese rather than béchamel.  I have always liked the way Greeks season their meat sauce with a trio of cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg.  The dish comes alive and creates a warming sensation when cinnamon is added.  This hearty meal is the epitome of Greek comfort food.


450g penne or bucatini
110g feta cheese, crumbled
2 egg whites

Meat Sauce

900g lean ground beef
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
400g canned chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
150ml red wine
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick

Béchamel Sauce

120g flour
120g butter
1000ml milk warmed up
2 egg yolks
50g Kefalotyri or Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
pinch of nutmeg


Grab a large pan and over medium-high heat add a splash of olive oil. Add onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Then add the garlic, tomato paste, and beef. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon and cook until no longer pink. Pour in the red wine, stirring occasionally until the liquid evaporates. Add the canned tomatoes, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer with the lid on for about half an hour or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the bay leaf and cinnamon.  Season with salt and pepper, if needed, to suit your palate.

To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a large pan over low-medium heat. Add the flour whisking continuously to make a paste. Pour milk in, whisking to prevent the sauce from getting lumpy.  When the sauce has thickened, remove the pan from heat.  Add the egg yolks, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg, and the grated cheese. Whisk quickly to combine.  Season according to taste.

Cook the pasta for 4 minutes less than the package instructions.  Drain the pasta and stir in the egg whites and the feta cheese and mix.

In a large baking dish (25cm x 35 cm) butter the bottom and sides of the dish and assemble the pastitsio. Add the pasta to the dish and top it with the meat sauce making sure it is evenly distributed.   Finish by adding the bechamel sauce. Smooth out by using the back of a large spoon.  Bake in preheated oven at 180c (350f) for about 40 minutes or until the top turns a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the pastitsio sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

the culinary chase’s note:

The egg whites help the pasta stay together making it easier to serve.  Enjoy!