This recipe is so good that I revisit it every few months. It makes a great centerpiece for a dinner party and the leftovers are better than the first night’s meal. With the Instant Pot there are not as many leftovers, it makes a smaller amount, but I like that since we typical feed two to four at our house. If you want to make it the traditional way for a larger number of people, click here. The noodles are difficult to find, but I get them on Amazon.com, buying 6 bags at a time.
Greek Lasagna Pastitsio
When teaching others to make this dish, I have often joked that the word pastitsio (pa-STEE-tsee-oh) translates to “messy kitchen” in Greek. I was only kidding, but there is a hint of truth to that statement. The Greek word pastitsio derives from the Italian pasticcio, which loosely translates to a mess or a hodgepodge.
Three essential components make up this dish – pasta, meat filling, and a creamy bechamel sauce which are layered in a pan and baked to a golden brown. Each stage will require dirtying some pots and pans, but I think you will agree that the end result is well worth the clean up!
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 14 oz. can tomato puree or sauce
- 3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
- /2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tablespoon oregano crushed
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or Kefalotyri if available)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs plus 1/2 cup for topping if desired
- 1/2 pkg. #2 Macaroni for Pastitsio (500g)- available at Greek or ethnic groceries.
- 2 egg whites (reserve the yolks for bechamel sauce)
- 1/4cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
For the bechamel sauce:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
- 1/2cup all purpose flour
- 1 pint milk, warmed
- 4 egg yolks, beaten lightly
- 1/2 of a whole nutmeg, grated with a microplane
This recipe will yield about 4 servings depending upon the size of your pieces. I use a 6″ spring form pan that is 3-4″ deep.
Begin with the Meat Filling:
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add ground lamb and cook over medium-high heat until pink color disappears, about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until they are translucent, about 5 minutes more.
Add wine, tomato sauce, parsley, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and allow sauce to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. While sauce is simmering put water on to boil for pasta.
Cook pasta noodles according to package directions and drain well. Rinse noodles in colander under cold water to cool them slightly.
Stir in 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs to meat sauce to absorb excess liquid and remove from heat.
Melt 1/2 cup butter in pasta pot and return cooked noodles to the pot. Stir in beaten egg whites and 1 cup of grated cheese and toss lightly, being careful not to break the noodles.
Brush the bottom and sides of the spring form pan with olive oil. Layer the bottom with half the pasta noodles and press down so that they are somewhat flat.
Add the meat filling in an even layer to the pasta. Top with remaining pasta noodles and flatten top layer as best you can
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste or roux. Allow the flour/butter mixture to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.
Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens but does not boil.
Remove from heat and stir in beaten egg yolks. Add pinch of nutmeg. If sauce still needs to thicken, return to heat and cook over very low heat while continuing to stir.
Bechamel is thicker than gravy but not quite as thick as pudding. It should be somewhere in between. One way to tell if it is thick enough is to dip your wooden spoon in the sauce and draw your finger across the back of the spoon. If the sauce holds a visible line then it is thick enough.
Pour the bechamel over the pasta noodles making sure to pour sauce down in to the corners as well. I even pull back the sides of the pasta to let some go down the sides. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs if desired. I make a foil sling for the spring form pan to make it easier to remove from the IP. Process in IP on high on rack for 18 minutes using instant release. remove from the pot and place on a sheet pan. place under broiler on low to toast the topping. allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting.