Since I’m off back to Crete today and I’m going to be moving all my Greek inspired recipes over to this blog, I thought I’d start with my all-time favourite, Pastitsio, Greek macaroni and meat pie, fabulous! This is old fashioned comfort food and holds so many memories for me.
Food and memories
I first came across Pastitsio when I worked on the island of Spetses oh so many years ago. There were two tavernas on the beach, the main one that was your basic everyday kind of place, and the one set a little behind that was more expensive and for a treat now and then. This is where I first tasted Pastitsio and so far it’s the best I’ve ever had.
Pastitsio is a meat and macaroni dish, hearty and filling and to me it’s the perfect comfort food. It’s my daughter Imogen’s favourite dish and I make it once a month and probably more than that in the winter.
There seems like a lot of ingredients here but please don’t be put off by that, a lot of the list is pinches of this and that in the spices department. Basically you are going to be making a meat in tomato sauce, a bechamel sauce and boiling up some macaroni. Nothing to panic about.
Pastitsio is packed with flavour. I use cumin, ground allspice, cloves, ground coriander, cinnamon, salt and pepper to make up my spice blend and this really packs a punch.
For the sauce I go with a milk and Greek yogurt combo (I’ll be showing you how to make your own Greek style yogurt in a post soon) and usually have to use parmesan cheese as Kefalotiri isn’t readily available out here in the Scottish countryside.
So go on, read on for the recipe and give this one a go. I’m sure it will soon be part of your kitchen repertoire and a family favourite.
- Meat and sauce mixture:
- 200g/7oz macaroni
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 250g/9oz minced beef or lamb
- 400g/14oz can of chopped tomatoes
- 35ml/1½fl oz dry white wine
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- pinch ground cloves
- pinch ground cinnamon
- pinch ground coriander
- salt and pepper to taste
- 50g/2oz grated Kefalotiri/parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- Sauce Mix:
- 20g/3/4oz butter
- 2tbsp flour
- 200ml/7fl oz milk
- 100ml/3½fl oz Greek yogurt
- 1 egg beaten
- 25g/1oz grated Kefalotiri/parmesan cheese
- 2tsp lemon juice
- pinch grated nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gs4
- Boil the macaroni in plenty of salted water till al dente, drain and set aside.
- Heat oil in pan and saute the onion for 3 mins then add the garlic for 1 more minute.
- Add the mince and brown.
- Add the tinned tomatoes and all spices and seasoning and simmer for 20 minutes till some of the liquid has evaporated.
- In a separate pan melt the butter and stir in the flour to form a paste.
- Beat the egg in a small bowl with the grated cheese.
- Mix milk and yogurt and gradually add this to the flour paste and stir till smooth and the sauce will start to thicken.
- Pour a little of this into the egg mix and combine well and then add this to the pan with the rest of the sauce and stir in the lemon juice and nutmeg, stir well and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Grease a baking dish and layer the mince mixture and pasta then half the grated cheese then the bechamel sauce.
- Top with remaining cheese and bake for 30-40 minutes till golden on top.
- Sprinkle with the parsley to serve.