I’ve already written about Pastitsio. But since it didn’t exactly get its close up last time, I figured it was time for a redo. Pastitsio, btw, is a baked pasta dish, layered with meat sauce, bechamel and parmesan (or kasseri). Even though there are a few steps (and several pots and pans) required to make this dish, the flavor is out of this world. It all started when I bought some ground lamb on impulse. Tired of chicken or beef or beef or chicken, I reached for the lamb. Then days passed as I’d open the freezer door, stare at it to figure out what I could do with it (meatballs, kebabs), then close the door again. Then I decided, it was time to remake this lovely casserole. I had to buy some ground beef anyway, as the combination of the two types of meat helps mellow the strong flavor of the lamb. The cinnamon and lamb is such an unlikely combination, but it just works. Along with the thyme, garlic and oregano, the aromatics perfume the whole house. This time though
- I substituted portobello mushrooms in lieu of some of the meat,
- Decreased the amount of cinnamon from 1 tablespoon to 1 teaspoon and really preferred it that way,
- Used large eggs instead of extra large (sorry Ina, that’s just what I have on hand),
- Used regular whole milk yogurt that I strained in a paper towel in bowl to get rid of the excess moisture,
- And didn’t have fresh thyme so dried it is!
This is the recipe according to the way I made it this time. Enjoy!
- 1 large Spanish onion, minced
- 3 tbsp olive oil olive oil
- 3/4 lb ground beef
- 3/4 lb ground lamb
- 1 tbsp (or 3 large cloves) garlic
- 2 portobello mushroom caps, cut into about 1/4 inch cubes
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1.5 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream (that’s right, butter, cream, beef and lamb. in one dish.)
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 3/4 cup parmesan
- 3/4 lb small or medium shell pasta
- 3/4 cup parmesan
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Heat oil over medium high heat in a large pot. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the meat and lamb, breaking up the chunks with a wooden spoon. Cook until no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover and lower the heat to a simmer. Let cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While that’s going, bring a pot of water to boil for pasta. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour. Whisk together and cook the flour for about 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk and cream, whisking constantly to ensure there are no clumps. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens (about 4 minutes). It should be thick enough so when you pull a wooden spoon out of it, you can run your finger down the sauce on the back of the spoon and it stays separate. Off the heat, add the nutmeg, salt, pepper and parmesan.
- Cook the shells according to the directions on the box, taking care not to over cook it (as it continues to cook in the oven). Once it’s done, add it to the meat sauce and stir to combine.
- To assemble: lightly grease a casserole dish. Add pasta with the meat sauce. Add the bechamel sauce over. Then sprinkle the rest of the parmesan (I accidentally added the pasta to the bechamel sauce first, so everything kind of got combined beforehand…no complaints here!).
- Baked in the preheated oven for 60 minutes or until golden on top and bubbling.