3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)

“PASTITSIO” … such a very Greek dish (as well as Cypriot, Turkish, Egyptian & Maltese) because it’s just so Mediterranean. But the original word “pasticcio” is Italian and signifies a baked pasta & meat dish. It’s not a lasagna nor a beefy macaroni & cheese dish, but something in between with a special spice blend.

It’s one of those dishes usually prepared for special occasions and special guests, and yet it’s neither as complicated nor as time-consuming as other baked pasta dishes. It’s just 5 STEPS … make the MEAT SAUCE layer, make the PASTA LAYER, make the BECHAMEL layer, ASSEMBLE & BAKE !

The only difficulty or if you’re lucky, the “fluke”, is having a dish that is the exact length of the cooked pasta, so you don’t have to cut off 2-3 cm of each (as I did) and it fits perfectly and hopefully having a high enough baking dish, between 6 and 7 cm, so you can assemble 4 equally high layers : 2 pasta layers + 1 meat sauce layer + 1 béchamel layer. Unfortunately, my dish is only 5,5 cm high and thus I had some béchamel leftovers. BUT THAT’S OK.

All of our families, or to be more precise, all our “mamas” have their own PASTITSIO recipes and methods. Mine is an adaptation of my mom’s version, spicier and saltier than hers because, because even though I’m old, I’m still young enough not to worry about indigestion, high blood pressure and all that stuff that our bodies undergo as we get older … hi, hi !

What truly characterizes this dish is using “bucatini” pasta, also called "pastitsio macaroni n° 2" pasta, it’s a much thicker and hollow type of spaghetti. It’s usually mixed with beaten eggs and crumbled feta cheese but I find that feta’s acidity competes too much with the overall taste and I prefer using a mix of drier cheeses that I grate. I used Greek cheeses but beware, they are quite salty compared to gruyère, swiss, mild cheddar, asiago and even parmesan. Choose wisely or just adjust with the salt at the end. 

Then comes the meat sauce, which is just ground beef or beef and pork and in this case, with lamb added in, all cooked and simmered until drier and fragrant.

Then comes the spices, an interesting mix of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves, but I’ve added crushed coriander seeds and pink peppercorns, that I figured out would be good additions after munching on a few pinches as I was cooking. By the way, there are no extra herbs, fresh nor dried in this dish, except for the bay leaves.

Finally, the "béchamel" sauce is actually a “mornay” sauce, since it includes eggs and a little bit of grated cheese too. I use less flour and butter and/or olive oil than usual, to make a béchamel sauce because I prefer taking the time to thicken it while whisking as opposed to a quicker but more “floury” sauce.

The 3 elements (meat sauce, béchamel sauce and pasta) that make up the 4 layers have equal weights of 1300 grams and hopefully equal heights when assembled, which is why there are 2 pasta layers.

I think I’ll be revisiting a lot of my mom’s recipes this year. We all think our moms are the best cooks, but then again, many of my friends and family also believe that she is. She experiments and retests stuff a lot and modifies stuff, just to see what the result will be.

I wonder who I ressemble ? 

THANKS MAMA, THIS DISH MAKES ME HAPPY . . . :)

3-meat & spicy «pastisio» greek pasta bake (with cinnamon, allspice, clove & nutmeg)

01.06.2019

8

ingredients

meat sauce (total weight when cooked is 1300 grams) :

  • 1 kg ground meat (I used 500 grams beef + 300 grams lamb + 200 grams pork)
  • 150 grams (1 large) grated onion
  • 5 grams (1 medium) clove garlic, sliced in 2
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil 
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) red wine
  • 400 grams (1 ¾ cups) crushed tomatoes (or de-seeded & chopped fresh plum tomatoes)
  • 25 grams (2 tbsp) tomato paste
  • 15 grams (1 tbsp) salt
  • 15 grams (2 whole sticks) cinnamon 
  • 1 gram (4 dried) bay leaves
  • 1 gram (¾ tsp or 10 large whole) crushed allspice peppercorns
  • 1 gram (½ tsp or 15 whole) crushed black peppercorns
  • 0,5 gram (½ tsp or 20 whole) crushed pink peppercorns
  • 0,5 gram (¼ tsp or 8 whole) ground cloves
  • 0,5 gram (¼ tsp or 1/8 of a whole) grated nutmeg
  • 0,5 gram (¼ tsp or 25 whole) crushed ground coriander seeds
  • optional : add an extra 1 gram (½ tsp) ground cinnamon powder (after cooking & tasting)

béchamel/mornay sauce (total weight when cooked is 1300 grams) :

  • 1,25 liters (5 cups) whole milk
  • 75 grams (9 tbsp) all-purpose flour
  • 37,5 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil
  • 37,5 grams (3 tbsp) butter
  • 120 grams (2 large) eggs, beaten
  • 50 grams (½ cup) grated cheeses (I used an equal mix of greek dried mizithra, kefalotiri, kefalograviera and/or kasseri or replace with asiago, mild parmesan, gruyère and/or mild white cheddar)
  • 5 grams (1 tsp) salt (adjust according to the saltiness of the added cheeses)
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) ground white pepper

pasta (total weight is 1300 grams when all mixed together) :

  • 400 grams bucatini or pastisio macaroni no° 2 long tubular pasta
  • 4 liters (16 cups) water
  • 15 grams (1 tbsp) coarse sea salt
  • 15 grams (1 tbsp) butter, melted
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil
  • 120 grams (2 large) eggs, beaten
  • 200 grams (2 cups) grated cheeses (an equal mix of greek dried mizithra, kefalotiri, kefalograviera and/or kasseri or replace with asiago, mild parmesan, gruyère and/or mild white cheddar)

final garnish :

  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil (and/or 15 grams (1 tbsp) melted butter)
  • 3 grams (1 ½ tsp) crushed and/or ground spice mix (see below) :
  • 1,5 grams (¾ tsp) ground cinnamon 
  • 0,5 gram (¼ tsp) ground allspice 
  • 0,25 gram (1/8 tsp) ground clove 
  • 0,25 gram (1/8 tsp) grated nutmeg 
  • 0,25 gram (1/8 tsp) crushed pink peppercorns
  • 0,25 gram (1/8 tsp) crushed coriander seeds 

instructions

  • note : the inside of my baking dish measures 32 x 22 x 5,5 cm, but ideally for the cooked pasta length and equal volumes of the layers, it would ideally measure 36 cm long, just as wide or slightly less at 20 cm and 6,5 cm-7 cm high; if your baking dish is only 5,5 cm high like mine, then you will probably end up with an extra 1 ½ cups of béchamel sauce leftover, so follow the instructions as indicated but use only 4 cups of milk for the béchamel, but if your baking dish is between 6 cm and 6,5 cm high, then make all the béchamel sauce and if its up to 7 cm high, then you can use all of the 450-500 grams of the pasta usually available in a full pack of bucatini / pastitsio macaroni n°2 instead of the only the 400 grams of dry pasta that I indicate, for an even higher dish …

meat sauce :

  • cook the grated onions in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes at medium-high heat until translucent, then add the coarsely ground meats and fry up until browned, stirring often to break up the meat, then add the bay leaves, the whole peeled garlic cloves and all the spices and salt, add the red wine and cook for 2 minutes until almost evaporated, then add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and let simmer at medium heat for 25-30 minutes until drier, set aside, let cool and remove the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and garlic cloves, adjust to your taste with more spices

pasta with eggs & cheeses :

  • boil the pasta in salted water for 9-10 minutes until almost done (or 2 minutes less than indicated because they will continue cooking in the oven), strain well and let cool down, melt the butter with the olive oil in the casserole and lightly coat the pasta, then toss with the beaten eggs and grated cheeses until well coated and set aside (you can reduce the length of the pasta if it doesn’t fit perfectly in your dish by snipping it with scissors)

béchamel/mornay sauce :

  • melt the butter with the olive oil in a casserole until bubbly, then add the flour and whisk for 1 minute until smooth, slowly add the 4 cups of milk, one cup at a time (reserve 1 cup for the eggs) and keep whisking at medium-high heat until it starts thickening, beat the eggs with the reserved 1 cup of milk and add to the béchamel sauce and whisk until smooth, add the grated cheeses, salt and pepper and set aside

final assembly : 

  • preheat the oven to 180°C and brush the baking dish with olive oil, then lay out approximately half of the cooked pasta mixed with the eggs and cheeses (if too long, cut down with a scissor to the length of your dish) and try to lay them all down in the same direction, in a first layer of approximately 1,5 cm high, then cover the pasta layer with the totality of the meat sauce and smooth out and cover with the second layer of pasta again and press down, pour the béchamel/mornay sauce on top until almost level with the edge of the baking dish and drizzle with some olive oil and melted butter and finally sprinkle with the crushed and ground spices

baking :

  • bake for approximately 60 minutes until golden on the top and a crust has formed, remove from the oven, let cool down for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving (or bake earlier and reheat, loosely covered with aluminum foil and/or baking paper at 180°C for at least 20 minutes for a firmer and more compact pastitsio) …