Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pastitsio from Amy Sedaris' book I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence

I sometimes describe pastitsio as "Greek lasagna," since it has all the principal parts: pasta, tomatoey sauce, ground meat, cheese, and rich creamy goodness holding it all together. But pastitsio, in all of its Greek fabulosity, is something special. The name comes from the Italian pasticcio, a type of baked savory pies which may contain meat, fish, or pasta. Many Italian versions include a pastry crust,  and some include b├ęchamel similar to the cream sauce in pastitsio. The word pasticcio comes from pasta and means 'pie.' Anyway, it's great for potlucks and get-togethers, and is a great cold-weather comfort.

Though there are many variations on pastitsio originating from the Mediterranean region (and even from Egypt), this recipe is Amy Sedaris' Greek family recipe. And I think its fantastic. For many other fantastic recipes and lots of vintage-themed humor, check out her book, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. As you probably would have guessed, I wasn't paid to say that.

As you can tell, pastitsio is NOT light on fat or calories, but that's why it's so great for sharing with a crowd. With a salad or a veggie, a small piece is plenty satisfying. This recipe makes a large dish; enough for 6-8 people, I would say.


1 (16 ounce) package ziti pasta
5 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup parmesan cheese or kefalotiri
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Meat Sauce
1-1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 crushed garlic clove
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
8 ounces beef broth or stock
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper

Cream Sauce
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
3 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 egg


1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. In a large pot, boil and drain your ziti, return to pot. Melt butter. Pour over ziti and toss. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese, the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Save a little of the cheese to sprinkle over the top before baking. Toss again and set aside. Let it cool a little before adding the eggs. Toss well.
3. To make meat sauce, brown meat in a frying pan until almost fully cooked. Drain off the fat and set the meat aside. Fry onion and garlic in oil. Add meat and remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
4. To make the cream sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour and cook until smooth. Add milk all at once and bring to a boil, stiring constantly. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Let it cool, then stir in th beaten egg.
5. Add 1/2 cup of this cream sauce to the meat sauce and mix.
6. To assemble, use a 13x9x3 inch oven dish, buttered. Spoon 1/2 of the macaroni evenly on the bottom, then top with the meat sauce. Cover that layer with remaining macaroni. Pour on cream sauce and spread over the entire top. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake until a little brown, about 45 minutes.

We had our pastitsio with steamed veggies, and a salad with Greek vinaigrette (made by Mom) and a sprinkling of Feta. I followed Amy's winning recipe exactly, except for one thing. Instead of using ground beef alone, I used a "meatball mix" - a combination of ground beef, pork and veal that imparts a slightly more complex flavor. I'm not hating on the all-beef version, though. It's a classic, and I'm sure somehow my mixed-meat-method is offensive to the authenticity of the Greek dish. Overall I wouldn't even say that the difference is noticeable, so I would use what I hand on hand. Either way - Yum. I recommend pairing it with a robust red wine.

Quote of the Day: Tomato and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French; sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon makes it Greek; soy sauce makes it Chinese and garlic makes it good. ~ Jenny Morris

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