Serves: 8 to 10
Prep Time: 1/2 hour | Cook Time: 1 hour on stovetop + 1 hour to bake
Pastitsio, which could also be called Greek Lasagna, is one of those “the sum is greater than the parts” dishes, although the parts are pretty great, too: awesome meat sauce, a béchamel smoothed with yogurt, and small pasta. That was news to me—I thought Pastitsio was only made with large tubes, but Ina uses small shells (I used elbow macaroni) and it makes each biteful more delicate. She also blends the eggs into the meat-pasta mixture, not the topping, which holds the shape of each serving when you scoop it out. Like all things Ina, this is a familiar dish taken to the next level of delicious.
good olive oil
1½ cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean ground lamb
½ cup dry red wine, such as Côtes du Rhône
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in thick purée, such as Red Pack
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1½ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
7 ounces Greek yogurt, such as Fage Total
12 ounces small pasta shells, such as Ronzoni
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the beef and lamb and sauté over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, crumbling it with a wooden spoon, until it’s no longer pink. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, and cayenne, and continue cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their liquid, 1 tablespoon salt (or to taste), and 1½ teaspoons black pepper. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 45 minutes, until the liquid evaporates. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°.
For the béchamel, heat the milk and cream together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, until simmering. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, add the flour, and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk mixture into the butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly. Continue whisking over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes, until thick and smooth. Add the nutmeg, 1 tablespoon salt (or to taste), and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Stir in ¾ cup of the Parmesan cheese and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the yogurt and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the shells al dente, according to the package instructions. Don’t overcook the pasta; it will be baked later. Drain and set aside.
To assemble, combine the pasta with the meat and tomato sauce, stir in the eggs, and pour the mixture into an 11 × 15 × 2-inch baking dish. Spread the béchamel evenly over the pasta and sprinkle with the remaining ¾ cup of Parmesan cheese. Bake for 1 hour, until golden brown and bubbly. Set aside for 10 minutes and serve hot.
A note re salt: the amount of salt called for in this recipe may be adjusted; you might want to start with half as much as called for, then season with more to taste.
to make ahead: Assemble the pastitsio completely and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost (if necessary) and bake before serving.