Classic Pastitsio

A perfect serving of this baked-pasta dish needs to have the right ratio of bechamel topping to lamb-and-pasta filling.

  • Servings: 12

Source: Martha Stewart Living, February 2001


For the Meat Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 white onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 cups water

For the Bechamel

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cayenne pepper

To Assemble

  • Unsalted butter, for baking dish
  • 1 pound curly elbow macaroni


  1. Make the sauce: In a large deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, and cook until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add lamb, salt, cinnamon, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook, breaking lamb into pieces, until it is no longer pink. Add wine, and cook until liquid is almost evaporated. Stir in tomato paste, bay leaves, and 2 cups water. Cover, and let simmer 30 minutes, skimming the fat occasionally. Remove from heat, and set aside, covered.

  2. Make the bechamel: In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. When butter is bubbling, add flour and baking powder. Cook, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, for 1 minute. While whisking, slowly pour in milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick. Remove pan from heat, and stir in Parmesan, salt, black pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Set aside, covered, until ready to assemble.

  3. To assemble: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch glass or other ovenproof baking dish; set aside. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until very al dente, 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a colander; drain well. Stir noodles into meat mixture. Pour meat-and-pasta mixture into prepared pan. Spread bechamel over the mixture, and bake until top is set and golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.

    Note: Photograph by Maria Robledo


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