The Greek Pastitsio
Pastitsio recipe

The Greek Pastitsio

Pastitsio is the only comfort food that can rival Mousaka in the hearts of the Greeks! A delicious Sunday dinner that consists of pasta as a base, minced beef as a filling, and topped with a Béchamel sauce. Don’t miss out on this recipe!

Pastitsio recipe

What is Pastitsio?

The Greek Pastitsio It is an oven-baked, layered casserole that is made with Bucatini pasta as a base, filling with minced beef cooked in a tomato sauce and a tasty béchamel sauce on top. A delicious Sunday dinner that the whole family loves.

In some regions of Greece, but mostly in Cyprus, they add two layers of pasta, one as a base and one more layer before the Béchamel sauce.

I prefer the version I make, which is also the most commonly baked in Greece because it ensures for a creamier béchamel that stays in place and does not slip through the cracks of the pasta. Besides, this is the traditional Pastitsio recipe I grew up eating!

The Pastitsio is often misspelled as Patitsio or Pasitsio or Pastisio but in the Greek language it sounds like: Pash-tee-chee-oh

Pastitsio2

What pasta to use for Pastitsio?

ss pasta

The pasta we use for Pastitsio have a hole in the middle and are called Bucatini. In Greece they are labeled as “Pasta for Pastitsio” or you might find them as Bucatini No2. If you live outside of Greece look for Barilla Bucatini No9 or the next best thing, Bucatini No6. Penne is also an option, but this should be your last choice. 

8 Tips on how to make the Perfect Pastitsio

layer1
1.

Boil the pasta for half the time it says on the package.

Pastitsio filling
2.

It is best for the filling to be completely cold when you add it to the baking pan. I usually make my minced beef filling the night before, and keep it in the fridge overnight.

2 Pastitsio filling a
3.

Sprinkle some grated cheese (Kefalotyri or Kaseri) on top of every layer you add for the Pastitsio.

ss bechamel
4.

You must be patient with the Béchamel and remove it from the heat only when it thickens and you see whipping lines on the surface like in the photo.

If you do not plan to use it right away, you should cover its surface with plastic wrap to avoid a milk crust. If you allow for a milk crust to form and whip it inside the béchamel it will look like it has little lumps inside. But fear not because those lumps will disappear after you bake it.

3 Pastitsio top
5.

Bake at 180C / 350F for 45m uncovered

not ready ready1
6.

Dip a knife in the béchamel and if it comes out runny, then it’s not ready. You should bake for 15 more minutes covered with aluminum foil. If the béchamel sticks on the knife, then it’s ready.

covered
7.

Bake at 180C / 350F for 15m covered with aluminum foil.

Pastitsio cooked
8.

Enjoy your Pastitsio after you let it cool at room temp for 1 hour. If you cut it before then, the béchamel will be runny.

Pastitsio recipe
Pastitsio recipe

The Greek Pastitsio

Prep: 1h | Cook: 1h | Total: 2h | Yields: 15
Ingredients for a big Baking tray 30x40cm or 12x16 inches
The Pasta

Ingredients for the Pasta:

  • 500g Bucatini pasta No2 or Barilla No9
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 pinch of Salt
  • 80g grated cheese Kefaloturi or Kaseri (or any cheese of your choice) to sprinkle on top.

Instructions for the Pasta:

  1. Boil the Bucatini pasta in salted water for half the time it says in the package.
  2. Drain them and add them back again in the pot, off the heat, adding 1 Tbsp butter and 1Tbsp Olive oil to coat them.
  3. Sprinkle 80g grated cheese on top
The Filling

Ingredients for the minced beef filling:

  • 1k and 200g minced beef (Flank)
  • 500g concentrated tomato juice
  • 70g tomato paste
  • 2 Big fresh tomatoes grated
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper cut in cubes
  • 1 red horn pepper cut in cubes* (replace it with one more green bell pepper if you don’t have)
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)
  • 1/3 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 80g grated cheese Kefaloturi or Kaseri (or any cheese of your choice) to sprinkle on top.
  • Black pepper (at the start) and Salt to taste (at the end)

Instructions for the minced beef filling:

  1. Sweat the onion with the olive oil over high heat and add the cinnamon, the black pepper, and the minced beef.
  2. Sauté them until the minced beef loses its juices and creates a crust in the bottom of the pan (about 10 mins).
  3. Move the meat to the half side of the pot and on the other side add the red and green pepper cubes and sauté them all together until they wither.
  4. Again, move the meat to the half side of the pot, and on the other side add the fresh grated tomatoes, the concentrated tomato juice, the tomato paste the salt, and the honey* (optional).
  5. Let them cook while deglazing the pot with a wooden spoon.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for 10 minutes and the filling is ready.
The Bechamel

Ingredients for the Bechamel:

  • 200g Butter, unsalted
  • 200g All-purpose flour (1 cup)
  • 2 Tbsp Cornstarch
  • 80g grated cheese Kefaloturi or Kaseri (or any cheese of your choice) to sprinkle on top.
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1,8L milk
  • 1/3 tsp Nutmeg, grated
  • 1/3 tsp Cinnamon
  • Salt to taste

Instructions for the Bechamel:

  1. Mix the flour with the cornstarch.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium to high heat and add in the flour little by little.
  3. Stir until they are incorporated and then add the milk little by little.
  4. The béchamel is ready when it thickens and you see whipping lines being formed on its surface.
  5. Take it off the heat and add 4 egg yolks while stirring constantly until they dissolve in the mixture.
  6. If you are not going to use it immediately, add a plastic wrap on the surface so it can prevent it from forming a crust.

Notes:

  • * The red pepper is optional. If I forget to buy it or it is not available in my fridge I replace it with one more green pepper.
  • * I don’t pour the tomatoes straight into the pot because they are cold and acidic and they will toughen the meat. I add them to the side so that only a small portion of the meat comes in contact with the cold tomatoes and when they heat up I mix them all together.
  • * If you add the salt directly right over the meat just before you put it in the pot it toughens it. I add it after the meat has been sautéed when I add the tomatoes to avoid tough chunks of meat in my sauce.
  • * The tomatoes of Thessaloniki and Northern Greece, in general, are rather tangy and the honey or sugar is added to balance their tanginess. When I lived in Athens I never added sugar or honey in my tomato sauce and I was curious why they do it in Northern Greece but after living there for many months I understood why. I experienced that tanginess firsthand while I was living in Chalkidiki. I live in Athens now but I like to add a little honey in the minced beef filling because it adds to the flavor.
  • We add the milk little by little in the Bechamel because in that way it prevents it from forming little lumps. You can use any milk you like but I used fresh milk.
  • You may add whatever grated cheese you like for Pastitsio. In Greece, we use mostly Kefaloturi or Kaseri but if you can’t find them you may use Parmesan or Regato Kerrygold as substitutes. Just for your reference, I used a mixture of Kaseri and Regato Kerrygold in the making of the video which was about 240g for the whole recipe.
Pastitsio nutrition label

Did you make this recipe? Or are you planning to make it? Let me know in the comments below, tag me on Instagram @freshpiato or show me your photos on Pinterest!

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