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Greek Pastitsio (Baked pasta & meat sauce, topped with bechamel sauce and cheese)

Pastitsio
Greek Pastitsio



I love  the kind of food, that can be cooked, first thing in the morning, and then just left, until it's time to eat.

This enables you to get on with the rest of your day without having to worry about what to feed your family.


Pastitsio is traditionally eaten cold in Greece, but is just as good, eaten hot, how I prefer it, MGG (My Greek God) thinks otherwise!

 Prepare it in the morning, and pop it in the oven for fifteen minutes, before serving.

Add a crisp green,or Greek salad, crusty bread, olives, feta cheese and a bowl of tzatziki, open up a bottle of good Greek wine, and there you have it'

A traditional, mouth watering, Greek meal.




Pastitsio, is pasta, meat sauce and bechamel sauce, all layered together, to create this tasty, traditional, Greek dish.


The three parts of pastitsio
The three parts of pastitsio




Ingredients:

For the meat sauce:


I kilo minced beef

1 carton tomato puree

2 large onions chopped

1 clove garlic chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

1  Bay leaf

Salt & pepper



For the bechamel sauce:

200 gr butter

1.5 cups plain flour

1.5 litres milk

2 beaten eggs

1 cup grated hard cheese

1 Nutmeg Whole , grated


(Whole nutmeg, freshly grated, has much, much more flavour than powdered nutmeg)


Pasta

500 gr spaghetti pasta size number 2


Method


Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add  half a tea spoon of salt, and drop in the pasta, leave to boil for the amount of time stated on the packet, stirring frequently.

When cooked, drain and rinse in a colander, leave to one side

 Meat sauce:

 Heat the olive oil, in a large pan, saute the chopped onion and garlic for 5 minutes and add the minced beef, saute for another ten minutes.

Add the tomato puree, along with a couple of cups of boiling water, stir well.

Pop in the bay leaf, the cinnamon stick, and throw in a few cloves, 10 or so.

(Grated  cinnamon and cloves , can be used, but, you will get only half the flavour)

Season with salt & pepper.

Simmer the sauce for twenty to thirty minutes, stirring occasionally and adding hot water if necessary.

At this point, switch on the oven, 180 deg.C


Bechamel sauce


People are nervous about making bechamel sauce, worrying that it will become lumpy.

Using this method, I have never had that problem.

 I'm frequently asked;

 "How do you make such a good bechamel sauce?" !



Ingredients for bechamel sauce
Ingredients for bechamel sauce



I'm sure that I don't make it "The correct way" but, it works every time, without fail!

I'll explain my method to you, as best as I can.




How the butter and flour should look, before beginning to add the milk
How the butter and flour should look,
before beginning to add the milk



First off, I don't measure the ingredients for bechamel.


 Melt  about 200gr of butter, remove the pan from the heat, important,  then, slowly add flour, stirring well, until the mixture forms a ball, and falls away from the sides of the pan, without sticking.

 You may not need the whole 1.5 cups of flour, or, you may need more, just add enough to make the mixture form a ball, see above picture.

 Gradually add the milk, first slowly, mixing well with a spoon, then as the mixture becomes more liquid, whisk well with a balloon whisk.

If you do spot lumps beginning to form, whisk as fast as you can for a minute!

Once all the milk has been added, grate in some nutmeg, a whole nutmeg!

Season with salt & pepper, if the cheese you have (This will be added later) is salty, go easy

 on the salt in the bechamel.



Bechamel sauce, ready to be put on the heat,  and, brought to the boil.
Bechamel sauce, ready to be put on the heat,
 and, brought to the boil.


All this, is done, with the pan off the heat, very important!

Now, return the pan to the heat, stirring all the time, and I mean all the time, a bit of a bore, but you have to!

I use a balloon whisk.

Whisk away, until the sauce comes to the boil, remove the pan from the heat.

At this stage, most recipes say, leave the sauce to cool, I don't!

Add, and stir in well, about a cup of grated cheese, mix it really well!

Then, slowly, whisking  all the time, so that the sauce doesn't curdle, add the beaten egg.

If it looks like it is about to curdle, whisk for your life!



Whisk like mad!
Whisk like mad!


I think the secret of a successful bechamel sauce is; 

Combine the flour and all the milk, into the melted butter , with the pan off the heat.

Whisk, whisk, whisk, as hard as you can, continuously!


Assemble Pastitsio


Now, it's time to put it all together, firstly, add just enough of the bechamel sauce, to cover the bottom of the ovenproof tin, or baking dish that you are using.




Cover the base of the tin with bechamel sauce
Cover the base of the tin with bechamel sauce



 Add half of the boiled pasta, on top of the sauce, sprinkle with  grated cheese.

While sitting in the colander, the pasta may have become a big lump!

 Just run under hot water for a second or two, to separate it, drain well.




Add pasta, sprinkle with grated cheese
Add pasta, sprinkle with grated cheese



 Add all the meat sauce, (remember to discard the bay leaf and cinnamon stick) spreading it out evenly over the pasta.





Add meat sauce
Add meat sauce




Add the rest of the pasta on top of the sauce, sprinkle with grated cheese.

 Give the remaining  bechamel a quick whisk and pour all of it, over the pasta.

Spread out evenly, with the back of a large spoon.




Ready for the oven!
Ready for the oven!


It's all assembled and ready to go in the oven.

Bake for about twenty minutes, at 180 degrees C, or until the surface, is nicely browned.




Delicious pastitsio
Delicious pastitsio


Leave to cool completely before cutting into squares.

If you try to cut it, before it has cooled, it will just collapse on the plate, it needs to be cold to stand up, in a nice neat square.

If later on, after it has cooled, you heat it up again, it can be cut hot, and will keep its shape.

I don't know enough about science to tell you why!

Kali Orexi (Bonn appetit in Greek)

 Enjoy!


Not only is Greek food delicious, it's the ultra-healthy Mediterranean Diet.

 Learn more about this healthy lifestyle, and try out mouthwatering Greek dishes, with the help of this gem of a book, by Debbie Matenopoulos, the first member of her family born in America, who grew up in a traditional Greek household, eating delicious, authentic Greek cooking that her family had passed down for generations.


It's All Greek to Me:
 Transform Your Health the Mediterranean Way with My Family's Century-Old Recipes



"It's All Greek To Me" Debbie Matenopoulos
"It's All Greek To Me"
Debbie Matenopoulos

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Quick Greek tomato sauce with basil. Ideal for pasta, or homemade pizza.

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2 comments:

  1. Happy, healthy, sparkling new year 2015! Guess you are cooking something special for tonight...
    Best wishes
    Olympia

    ReplyDelete
  2. A very Happy New Year to you and your family, Olympia.
    I have been so busy, I haven't read your blog at all recently, or anyone elses!!
    I have a lot of catching up to do!
    Tonight, I won't be cooking anything!
    We are all going to my Son's for New Year's Eve, My daughter-in-law will be cooking. Aren't I lucky?
    Love
    Susan.x

    ReplyDelete

Thank you so much for reading my blog, I am always absolutely delighted to hear your thoughts, ideas or suggestions.
They make all my efforts worthwhile,.

Please do check back, after leaving a comment, as I make every effort to answer all your remarks promptly.
Thanks,
Susan.x

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