RECIPE: Pastitsio

Skip the marinara sauce in this Greek version of lasagna

HOUSTON – Lasagna is a popular dish for home entertaining and for make-ahead family meals. If you're looking for a similar dish to lasagna to make, you should give pastitsio a try.

Pastitsio is a Greek version of lasagna filled with ground beef and cheese and delicious in its own way.

This hearty dish uses white béchamel sauce instead of marinara sauce and a different kind of pasta.

"The typical lasagna its flat, but the noodles of the pastitsio are kind of cubical, but the taste is the same, and for the ground beef, instead of parsley, we use cinnamon," said Deena Metaxas, from St. John the Theologian Greek Orthodox Church, who makes pastitsio every year at the Clear Lake Greek Festival and stopped by our studio to share her recommendations on how to make her recipe at home.

To see the all her tips, watch the video above.


Pastitsio Ingredients

Bechamel sauce:
•    6 tablespoons unsalted butter
•    3/4 cup all-purpose flour
•    1 quart whole milk, warmed until hot
•    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
•    3 large eggs

Main dish:
•    4 tablespoons unsalted butter
•    2 medium onions, chopped
•    2 pounds ground beef
•    1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•    Salt and pepper, to taste
•    1/2 cup water
•    2 tablespoons tomato paste
•    1 package pastitsio noodles cooked, not rinsed
•    3 large eggs, beaten
•    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
•    12 to 16 ounces Parmesan cheese


To prepare the béchamel sauce:
1.    Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour and then gradually whisk in the hot milk. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Stir in the salt, remove from heat and let cool. When the sauce is lukewarm, whisk in the eggs. Set aside.

To prepare the meat layer:
1.    Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add the onions and sauté until softened and golden. Crumble the beef into the skillet and cook with the onions until the beef is browned. Stir in the cinnamon, salt and pepper. Stir in the water and tomato paste and simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside.

To prepare the pasta layer:
1.    Cook pasta according to directions on the package. Drain and rinse with cool water. When pasta has cooled down, stir in the beaten eggs and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

Assemble the dish:
1.    Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit Spray a deep 9-inch by 13-inch casserole dish with nonstick spray. You need a deep casserole dish for this recipe (deeper than the usual 9-inch by 13-inch pyrex).
2.    Scoop half of the pasta into the bottom of your prepared dish. Sprinkle generously with cheese. Spoon on the meat mixture to create an even layer; sprinkle with another layer of cheese. Scoop the remaining pasta on top of the meat and sprinkle with more cheese! Top with the cream sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
3.    Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and golden on top. Let sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before serving (but it is suggested that you refrigerate to let the layers set and then warm up later to serve).

Recipe provided by Deena Metaxas.