Pastitsio is one of Rob’s all-time favorite recipes. It is essentially a Greek lasagna/baked ziti dish. Pastitsio is a layer of pasta topped with a spiced meat layer followed by a bechamel layer. It is definitely a bit labor intensive but it is so delicious. I definitely see why Rob loves it so much. I love this too as it makes for a good make-ahead or leftovers dinner.
We did break from tradition a little bit with this version. For this version, we used a ground beef and veal combo instead of traditional lamb. We made it with lamb once; however, lamb has a very strong flavor and competes a bit with the spices. I think the flavors shine a bit more with a milder meat. If veal is hard to find, ground pork would also be good.
At the time of writing this recipe, it was my third time making pastitsio and honestly it wasn’t nearly as intimidating. Does it still make a mess and require a bit of effort? Yes, but it just felt like the whole thing came together without any fuss or drama. The key I have found is just knowing the timing. Start with the meat sauce, then start the bechamel and pasta together and it all works out timing wise. This is definitely a dish where prep work, organization, and team work help.
Wine Pairing: Sullivan 2012 Merlot
The first time we went to Sonoma/Napa we tried a pretty decent number of wineries (probably 10+). What we didn’t find much of in those tastings were good Merlots. Honestly, a lot of them (especially at some of the bigger wineries) just had very little taste. Rob even described a few of them as having “a generically red wine taste” but nothing else. Sullivan (more on them here) broke the trend for us, in fact, it was the only bottle of Merlot that we bought that trip.
Sullivan’s Merlot is reasonably mellow, definitely not going to be confused for a Cab. That being said it has a slightly fruity sweetness to it and an overall smooth taste and mouthfeel. It was a good combination with some like the pastitsio as it did not try to compete at all while still contrasting a bit. This remains our favorite merlot.
- 1 Lb Ziti
- 2 Tbs Butter
- 1/3 Cup Parmesan freshly grated
- 1 Lb Ground Beef
- 1 Lb Ground Veal or Pork
- 18 oz Canned Tomato Puree
- 1/2 Yellow Onion finely diced
- 4 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1 Tsp Cinnamon heaping
- 1 Tsp Nutmeg fresh
- 1/2 Tsp Oregano
- 1/4 Tsp Red Pepper Flake
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 3 Tbs Butter
- 1/4 Cup Flour
- 2.75 Cup Milk
- 1/4 Tsp Cinnamon
- 2 Eggs
- Parmesan for topping
- Preheat the oven to 350F and grease the inside of a 13×9 casserole with butter. Heat a pot of water for the pasta.
Meat Mixture (Start First)
- Heat 1-2 Tbs of olive oil in a skillet or saute pan over medium heat.
- Cook the onion for 4-5 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic for the last minute.
- Add the meat and cook until mostly cooked through, 6-7 minutes.
- Add the tomato and spice, allow to come to a low boil, and reduce heat to Low and simmer while preparing the remaining ingredients.
Bechamel (Start Second)
- Start by melting the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat.
- Add the flour and stir to combine and cook until light brown.
- Add the milk stirring to combine, reduce heat to medium-low, add the cinnamon, and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and remove about 1-1.5 cups of the liquid and set aside to cool. Start the pasta at this point, cook until slightly underdone. When done toss with butter and parmesan cheese and arrange into an even, preferably unidirectional orientation.
- Whisk the eggs together in a bowl or measuring cup. Once the pasta is done, slowly whisk the reserved milk mixture into the eggs to temper them. Stir the mix back into the rest of the milk mix.
- Place the meat on top of the pasta, followed by the bechamel. Top it with some freshly grated parmesan.
- Bake for an hour turning half way through.