Denver had our first snow yesterday. Though, it was pretty light and did not stick around very long. A few hours later, the sun was out! Usually, it snows by Halloween. The mountains have been getting some good snow lately, which makes me excited for ski season (especially since I took a ski hiatus the past few years).
With winter coming for this part of the hemisphere (my readers in Australia and New Zealand are thinking about summer!), it's time to start thinking about some great comfort winter eats. Say hello this Pastitsio, which is like a Greek lasagna.
Now, this is a bit of a time consuming recipe, but it is so worth it in the end, and you will have leftovers, so that saves you time in the future! ;)
The first step involves making a meaty tomato sauce. Onions are sautéed first, and then meat is added. Pastitsio generally has lamb in it, but I'm not a big lamb fan, so I used a combination of ground beef and Italian sausage. Wine, aromatic spices, and tomatoes are added to the mixture. After simmering for about 45 minutes, you have one heckuva sauce, and your kitchen will smell seriously delicious.
The second step is making the béchamel sauce. Like the usual béchamel way, you first melt butter and added flour to make a roux. Meanwhile, milk and cream simmer, and then they are added to the roux. After the mixture thickens, nutmeg, salt, and pepper are added, along with Parmesan cheese. Once the sauce cools, Greek yogurt is added. The Greek yogurt helps soften the flavor and add some more creaminess.
While the sauce cooks, you also boil water for pasta. For the pasta, you can use small pasta shells or even regular penne. You don't need to overcook the pasta because it will get baked.
After the pasta is done, assembling the dish is straightforward and quick. The pasta gets mixed into the meaty tomato sauce, and then it is transferred to your baking dish of choice. Then, the béchamel sauce gets spread on top, and more Parmesan cheese gets sprinkled. Finally, it is baking time! Alternatively, you can refrigerate the prepared Pastitsio for up to two days or freeze it. All you need to do is then bake it! If you freeze it, make sure to defrost it before baking. Making it ahead is a great option for a dinner party, too.
This dish was time intensive and involved a lot of dishes and pots, but it was so worth it. The meaty tomato sauce had such great flavors from the red wine, garlic, and spices, and the béchamel sauce was a creamy addition. Parmesan cheese was just the cherry on top. :) I made this for a Friday night dinner party, and it was well gobbled by my friends. :)
Yields 10 servings
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 lbs. ground meat of choice (1 lb. ground beef and 1 lb. pork sausage, 1 lb. ground beef and lamb)
1/2 cup red wine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
For the béchamel sauce:
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup (30 grams or 1.07 oz) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Barely a full cup or 7 oz. plain Greek yogurt
12 oz. small pasta shells
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
For the topping:
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
For the béchamel sauce, heat the milk and cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, until it begins to simmer. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, and then add the flour, and whisk constantly for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk mixture into the butter mixture, and continue whisking for another five minutes until thick and smooth. Add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Remove from heat, and allow the sauce to cool for about 10 minutes, and then stir in the yogurt.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta to al dente. Do not overcook. Drain the pasta and set aside.
To assemble, combine the pasta with the tomato meat sauce, and pour it into a 11 x 15 x 2-inch baking dish. Spread the béchamel sauce evenly over the pasta and sprinkle wit the remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake for 1 hour until golden brown and bubbly. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes (if you can wait that long!) before serving.
Source: Ina Garten's Make it Ahead