Pastitsio Recipe

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This Greek Pastitsio recipe is pure comfort food. Find out how to make one of Greece’s most iconic dishes.

Pastitsio is one of my all-time favorite Greek dishes. This gooey savory bake consists of layers of pasta, a rich savory meat sauce, and a creamy béchamel sauce. You can find it in restaurants all over Greece, on holiday food spreads, and on hand for a hearty meal with the promise of delicious leftovers. (It even tastes better the next day.) Pastitsio is a perfect main course for a crowd. I love making it for my private parties in Los Angeles and for my weekly personal chef clients. Additionally, you can easily make it ahead, and it also freezes well. What’s not to love?

Fully baked Pastitsio.

Components of Pastitsio

The three main components of Pastitsio are the pasta, meat and béchamel sauces. This might seem overwhelming to tackle all at once. So if you want to break it up, you can easily make the meat sauce a day or two ahead of time. 

What pasta to use for Pastitsio

Greeks normally use a long tubular ziti-like pasta — Misko no. 2— but you can easily substitute penne, ziti, or even small shells in a pinch. You’ll likely find the traditional Pastitsio pasta at a Greek/Mediterranean or International Market, or and online Greek Market. Also, you can find it on Amazon for a few dollars more.

Most pastitsio recipes will call for you to cook the pasta initially. When I’m working with Misko no. 2 noodles, I find it easier to spread them out as evenly as possible on a half sheet pan and cover them with boiling water. This par cooks them, but doesn’t totally cook them. Remember, they are going to be baked in the oven with the sauces so I like cooking them a little less initially so they’re not super soft. When they’re slightly harder you can also line them up to get the even layers of lined-up noodles. This is a very type-A thing to do and completely optional, but it does make for nice photos.

If you choose to go in this direction, mix together the the butter, ¾ cup of cheese, and 2 cups of the béchamel from the “pasta” section of the recipe. Then evenly spread it over the pasta to coat it when it’s in the baking dish.

Tips for the Pastitsio meat sauce

One of the reasons I love Pastitsio so much is that it’s incredibly versatile. The meat sauce is made with ground beef or lamb, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and a blend of Mediterranean spices. You can switch up the meat to use lamb, beef, or a combination of the two, depending on your preference. You can also add other ingredients to the meat sauce, such as diced vegetables (carrots and celery mainly), herbs, or red wine to give it even more flavor. I’ve also made meatless versions using mushrooms, lentils, and butternut squash, which I will post recipes for in the future. However, one thing never to leave out is the warming spices. The combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and all spice is cornerstone of the taste. Additionally, you will use nutmeg to flavor your béchamel.

Banish béchamel boredom, add flavor!

A traditional béchamel sauce is made with butter, flour, eggs, and milk. And while it’s the perfect finishing touch to this delicious dish, you need to raise the volume a bit on it. My recipe calls for adding plenty of salt, pepper, cheese, and nutmeg. The secret ingredient is one I picked up from none other than the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten: Greek yogurt. This gives the béchamel a beautiful tanginess that adds so much to the flavor of the overall Pastitsio. You could also add feta to the béchamel instead to achieve a similar effect.

Pastitsio for all

If you’ve never tried Pastitsio before, or if you’re looking for a new recipe I highly recommend giving this a try. Overall, it’s such a comforting and satisfying meal that’s perfect for any occasion. Whether you’re hosting a dinner party, looking for a new recipe to try, or simply want to enjoy a delicious and hearty meal, Pastitsio is the way to go.

Join the Conversation

  1. You say a “large baking pan”. As in a 13 x 9?

    1. Christina Xenos Author says:

      Yes. 9×13 or similar is perfect.

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