Pastitsio is a rich Greek pasta bake, often referred to as Greek Lasagna. This recipe’s star ingredients are ground beef, Béchamel, cheese and savory spices. Pastitsio is comfort food at it’s finest!
This post is sponsored by Ohio Beef Council. As always, all ideas are my own.
Are you looking for a Valentine’s Day dinner idea? Ryan and I took a cooking class together for Valentine’s Day a few years ago and we had so much fun. This year I had the idea to turn Valentine’s Day dinner into a fun (family!) date night in by having our own little cooking class at home. Brighton loves climbing up into her step stool and helping out in the kitchen and she loved every step of making this delicious Pastitsio recipe. She especially loved seeing each of the layers go into the pan. By the time we were done she could even pronounce Pastitsio!
What is Pastitsio?
Pastitsio is a decadent Greek casserole made with pasta, tomatoes, ground beef (or sometimes lamb), Béchamel sauce and cheese. It has layers similar to a lasagna, but this is no ordinary lasagna. This Greek lasagna recipe is heavy on the herbs and spices to capture that signature deep, robust flavor you know and love in your favorite Greek dishes. The Béchamel layer really ups the comfort food factor!
Traditional Pastitsio uses Pastitsio noodles and Kefalotryi cheese. Since longer noodles are challenging for a toddler, I opt to use Ziti and we use Romano or Parmesan cheese (that’s what I usually have on hand). Greek lasagna recipes often call for ground beef or a combo of beef and lamb. I use ground sirloin as I prefer the flavor or beef and using ground sirloin reduces the fat content. After all, the best way to your Valentine’s heart is by serving them a nutritious meal. A 3-ounce serving of beef provides 25 grams of protein and 10 essential nutrients, all for less than 200 calories. Save those calories for the Béchamel! 😉
What kinds of spices do you use in Pastitsio?
There are a variety of spices often used in Pastitsio depending on the recipe you’re looking at. After much testing, I found what I think to be the absolute best combination of spices. My Greek pasta bake recipe includes cinnamon (the star spice), nutmeg, cloves, oregano, bay leaves and of course salt and pepper. Side note: the long list of herbs and spices makes it more fun when you’re preparing food cooking class style… there are more little ramekins to dump in!
What is Béchamel Sauce?
Belhamel is a rich, white sauce made with butter, flour, milk, eggs and cheese. It’s popular in French, Italian and of course Greek dishes. It’s a bit of a labor of love to make, as it needs constant supervision and stirring. That makes it the perfect recipe for a cooking class date night in… everyone can take turns stirring!
Can Pastitsio be made in advance?
Yes it can, but plan to add about 15 – 20 minutes of extra baking time for the Greek lasagna to cook through.
What to serve with Pastitsio?
Since this Greek Lasagna is pretty rich, it is best served with a simple Caesar salad or roasted veggies. And just like you and your Valentine, beef and wine are a perfect match. Find the perfect wine to pair with your beef recipe by using this handy guide from the Ohio Beef Council. Pro Tip: You can’t go wrong when pairing beef with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. You can use the wine you choose to sip on in your Greek Lasagna. Yay for multi-tasking ingredients!
How to Make Pastitsio
You can find a full recipe card below. Print it out so you have it on hand for your at-home cooking class! Here are some important tips to call out to get the best results with your Greek Lasagna:
- Cook pasta just under al dente (about 3 minutes less than the recommended cooking time). It will continue to cook while baking and if the noodles are too soft you will have a mushy casserole.
- Add 1/2 of the meat sauce to the pasta before layering. This will give the pasta more body which will help it keeps its form when served.
- Once the Greek casserole is done baking, sprinkle on some extra shredded cheese and pop it under the broiler until it’s golden and bubbly. Extra cheese is always a good idea, right?!
- Once removed from the oven, allow the Greek pasta bake to set for at least 30 minutes so that it firms up and you’re able to cut it without it sliding around.
Pastitsio Recipe (Greek Lasagna)
- 2 lbs ground sirloin
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion finely chopped (or grated)
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped or grated
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ cup red wine
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- ½ cup unsalted butter 1 stick
- 4 cups warm milk
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 egg yolks lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup grated Romano cheese
- ⅛ cup shredded Romano cheese
- Add olive oil to a large skillet or dutch oven and heat to medium-high. Add the onion and cook until soft.
- Add ground beef and use a wooden spoon to separate the beef into crumbles. Cook until browned. Drain and return to dutch oven.
- Add wine and stir until evaporated.
- Add tomato paste and mix until ground sirloin mixture is coated in paste. Add in cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and oregano and combine. Add crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper and stir. Add bay leaves and simmer for 30 – 40 minutes on low heat. Remove bay leaves and discard.
- Cook pasta just under al dente (about 2 minutes less than the package cooking time instructs). Drain and return to pot.
- Melt butter in saucepan under medium heat. Whisk in flour until combined and frothy about 3 minutes.
- Gradually add warm or hot milk stirring constantly until thickened (should cling to spoon and show stir tracks in the saucepan).
- Remove from heat and whisk in cheese. Whisk in lightly beaten eggs. Add salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg.
- Add ½ of the meat sauce to the pot with the noodles and combine. Spray 9" x 13" pan with olive oil and add the noodles.
- Sprinkle with grated cheese and add the remaining meat sauce.
- Top with Béchamel and the remainder of grated cheese.
- Bake at 350° F for 45 – 55 minutes. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and place under broiler for 4 – 5 minutes until cheese is golden brown.
- Allow to set for at least 30 minutes before serving.
America’s beef farming industry has one of the smallest carbon footprints in the world, 10 to 50 times lower than some other nations. Ohio beef farmers are committed to preserving the environment for future generations by using environmentally friendly farming practices. This is just one of the reasons that beef is (my other) Valentine! <3
Visit www.OhioBeef.org, and follow the Ohio Beef Council on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for beef nutrition facts, cooking tips, recipes and to meet Ohio’s beef farming families. Use #OhioBeef to share photos of the recipes you make this Valentine’s Day!