Complete List of Recipes & Reflections

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pastitsio Perfection (Παστίτσιο)

Pastitsio is to Greek cuisine what Lasagna is to Italian cooking. This classic Greek recipe makes for an excellent winter comfort meal. Served with a side of mixed green salad dressed with wine vinegar and Greek extra virgin olive oil, this is one meal that is sure to please guests and family.

A piece of Pastichio Perfection. Click to Enlarge Image.

Now, I am not in the habit of watching much television, especially the daytime major American network programs. However, today, as I was feeding my son his bottle I happened to catch Rachel Ray making what she called “Greek Baked Ziti” which we Greeks know as Pastitsio [pronounced as pa-STEE-tsee-oh]. At best, it was amusing to watch her pretend to know what she was doing. Unfortunately, within a few minutes it became painfully obvious that she really did not have a clue; and when her frustration started to show, it was embarrassing to think that her audience would walk away with such a bastardized version of a classic Greek food recipe planted in their heads.

So, in order to straighten Rachel out, I thought I would offer up my mother’s recipe for Pastitsio. I have been enjoying this dish as long as I can remember - it happens to be one of my all-time favourite Greek recipes. There are three components in the construction of this famous pasta casserole dish, and each must be attended to individually before combining them to achieve the final product.

The first component is a ground meat sauce which is similar to one that Greeks often serve over macaroni as detailed in my previous post: Macaroni, Makaronia, Makaronada, and Pasta… Similar, but not the same; one does not add cinnamon or any other aromatic spice to the meat sauce for Pastitsio. Why? Because it is overkill! Only the top layer of Béchamel Sauce gets a hint of nutmeg which then permeates the casserole as it bakes. I have seen so-called Pastitsio recipes on some other blogs which mix cinnamon and allspice in with the meat sauce, and then they complete their muddle of flavours with the requisite nutmeg in the Béchamel sauce!

Next, you need to use the right pasta. Several Greek brands of what is known as the “No. 2” macaroni shape are available in Greece and in Greek specialty shops abroad (also in some of the better stocked mainstream supermarkets). However, if you do not happen to have a Greek market, deli, or bakery nearby, and simply cannot find the Greek pasta, you can use either one of two more widely available Italian pasta shapes which are similar to the Greek noodle, these are as follows:
  • Buctani: A thick Spaghetti style pasta which is hollow through the center, similar to a drinking straw. (Of the two Italian shapes listed here, this one is the closer approximation to the Greek No. 2 pasta size).
  • Ziti: A larger diameter long-cut and smooth surface hollow (tubular) pasta shape.
Though it is also possible to use Penne pasta for this dish (my mother-in-law often does) I prefer sticking as close as possible to the classic composition for the sake of authenticity and ease of assembly.

Lastly, there is the Béchamel (i.e. White) Sauce that is poured overtop of the assembled casserole before it goes into the oven, and which forms a wonderful top layer and slight crust to the dish. For another classic béchamel-topped Greek casserole dish see my Marvelous Moussaka recipe.

My Pastitsio straight out of the oven. Click to Enlarge Image.

I used a CorningWare 2.5-qt. Oval Casserole without the lid to bake my Pastitsio. The depth of this type of baking dish allows for a nice layered height in the finished product. As with many Greek recipes, and most especially with casseroles, this dish is best consumed on the following day after its baking; simply refrigerate and heat well before cutting and serving.


The Meat Sauce

1 ½ lbs. ground veal (or beef, though minced lamb can also be used)
1 large or 2 medium-sized yellow onion(s), finely diced
1 tsp. (5 ml.) dried rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 ½ cups (375 ml.) fresh strained tomato juice (or ¼ cup tomato paste diluted in 1½ cups of water.)
¼ cup (60 ml.) white wine
¼ cup (60 ml.) - cup (80 ml.) Greek extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

The Pasta

1 lb. of Greek No.2 pasta (or Bucatini, or Ziti, as noted above)
2 tbsp. (30ml.) Greek extra virgin olive oil
3 egg whites, beaten (the yolks will be used in the béchamel sauce)
¼ cup (60 ml.) grated Kefalotyri (or Parmesan cheese if you try but cannot find the Greek cheese)

The Béchamel Sauce

4 cups (1 litre) of scalded milk
1 cup (250 ml.) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (180 ml.) grated Kefalotyri (or Parmesan cheese if you really cannot find the Greek cheese)
½ cup (125 ml.) of salted butter
3 egg yolks, well beaten
½ - 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and sauté the diced onion(s) over a medium heat until soft. Add the ground veal to the pan and break it up thoroughly. Keep stirring constantly over a medium high heat for 5 minutes or so to brown all of the meat and mingle it completely with the onion.
  2. Once the meat is completely browned, add the rosemary, garlic, wine, and the fresh tomato juice (or tomato paste diluted in water) to the pan along with salt and pepper to taste, and mix well. Bring to a boil, add the bay leaves and make sure to immerse them in the sauce, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pan with its lid leaving it only slightly uncovered to allow the excess water to evaporate as steam. Simmer for about 30 minutes or so. Stir the sauce occasionally. When ready, the meat will have absorbed the liquid in the pan. Remove the bay leaves and set aside when done.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add the pasta to the water and parboil it until soft but not fully cooked (about 3/4 of the suggested cooking time on the package).
  4. While the pasta is cooking, make the béchamel sauce. Start by melting the butter in a deep saucepan over a medium heat, then, using a whisk or immersion blender with a whisk attachment, slowly incorporate the flour by adding it to the melted butter in stages while stirring continually to avoid the formation of lumps. Once the flour has been fully incorporated, slowly add the hot milk while continuing to constantly stir the butter and flour paste to ensure a smooth consistency. Once the milk has been added, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the grated cheese, nutmeg, pepper and egg yolks in that order while continuing to rapidly stir the mixture. Set aside when smooth and well-mixed. However, do not let it stand for too long without a good stirring as you do not want the top to start congealing. By this point your pasta should be ready.
  5. Drain the water completely from the pasta pot and return pot with pasta to the heat, add the two tablespoons of olive oil to the pasta and mix well to ensure a thorough coating of oil as we do not want the pasta to get sticky. Remove the pot from the heat, let stand for a few minutes to cool and then add the egg whites to the pasta, along with the ¼ cup of grated Kefalotyri cheese and mix well, then set aside momentarily.
  6. Rub a little olive into the sides and bottom of your baking dish, and then add about two-thirds of the pasta to the dish to form a bottom layer. Make sure to spread the pasta evenly in order to completely cover the bottom of the dish, make sure not to leave any empty spaces.
  7. Spread the meat sauce overtop of the bottom pasta layer, ensuring to distribute it evenly and right to the edges of the casserole. The meat layer must be of uniform thickness and must not have any gaps.
  8. Add the remaining pasta overtop of the meat layer, distributing it evenly.
  9. Pour the béchamel sauce over of the final pasta layer, make sure to cover the entire surface area of the dish.
  10. Place the casserole uncovered in an oven pre-heated to 350°F (180°C) and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the béchamel sauce is golden brown.
  11. Remove casserole from oven and set aside to cool before serving. As already mentioned above, this dish is best served on the following day after its baking. However, if you must eat it on the same day, make sure it has a chance to cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting it into pieces. Do not make the mistake of cutting it before it has had a chance to cool, you will end up with messy servings. Cut it only when it has cooled, (ideally overnight in the refrigerator) and warm the pieces before serving.
Makes approximately 8 generous servings

There you have it, Pastitsio Perfection!

Pánta Kalá (Always Be Well),

Sam Sotiropoulos
Greek Gourmand™
Greek Food Recipes and Reflections
Copyright © 2008, Sam Sotiropoulos. All Rights Reserved.

P.S. Rachel, if you happen to read this, I would be more than happy to show you how to make this dish in person. :-)


Peter G said...

I like your version Sam and I pretty much crave pastitso in the colder months. Personally, I'm not sure there is an "authentic" version. I've seen it made different ways in Greece. The things that do remain the same are the pasta, sauce and bechamel. it's just the construction which differs...nonetheless delicious!

Shelly said...

That looks so delish! Rachael Ray's version doesn't stand a chance :)

Amy said...

Wow, this sounds amazing. I want some right now!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love that speciality! Your Pastitsio looks so scrumptious! Wow!



Sam Sotiropoulos said...

Peter G - Thanks Peter! Yes, everyone is entitled to an opinion, of course. As you say, the sauce, the pasta and the bechamel are standard. But I am curious, what differences have you seen in the construction exactly?

Shelly - Thanks Shelly! I think you are right, her version doesn't even come close. In fact, I'd put this Pastitsio recipe up against any other, bar none.

Amy - Well, the easiest way to have it is to make it. :-) It only takes an hour to make and with the 30 minute cooling period, you could be eating it within an hour and a half! (Though, I still think it's better on the following day)

Rosa - I am glad you like it! Try the recipe, it's really quite easy and a very enjoyable meal.

Peter G said...

Sam, I should be clear by what I meant by construction. When I make it I mix the meat and pasta together with some eggs, cheese and nutmeg and then add the bechamel on top. I don't have a "separate" layer of meat. My father always made it that way to ensure everything was mixed well. My friends parents from Thessalia make this by making "makaronia me kima" and adding "kourkouti" (as they call the bechamel...I've never heard of that term before) on top...the principle's the same but the presentation is different...that's all. Hope you understand what I mean...

heidileon said...

Sam, this pastitsio is new to me but just from reading the recipe I'm already craving it (and I'm not a meat lover..). Thanks for sharing this recipe with us!!

btw, I don't think Rachael will contact you. She might be afraid because you are way so much better than her!!



kwr221 said...

Love your recipe! Interesting that your version uses white wine. I use my Greek mother-in-law's recipe which uses red wine in the meat sauce (and does, indeed, use a little bit of cinnamon).

I think I might make yours and compare the two.


ltraider said...

That looks awesome! I may have to give it a try.

lisaiscooking said...

Wow. Thanks for an authentic recipe! Sounds amazing, and I can't wait to try it.

HoneyB said...

Ok, you definitely sold me on this one. I will try your recipe soon! Sounds and LOOKS delicious!

Anonymous said...

This pastitsio does look perfect! Delicious!

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

This truly does look like perfection! I've been looking for a great recipe for Pastitsio for a long time, and I know I've found one. I love it!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I've always wanted to try a pastitsio, but have never attempted one for fear that I'd create one of those sub-par, gloppy casseroles that often pass for the real thing. Thanks for your very clear instructions; I'm working up my courage!

catnapping said...

Your recipe read so deliciously that my mouth watered this entire post.

Thank you for sharing this recipe. I'm printing it up for my daughter. She produces a much better Béchamel than I, so I think she'll do your gift better tribute than I could.


I've never been a fan of Rachel Ray's recipes, but what she lacks in imagination, she certainly makes up for in energy.

Maria said...

That is one finely stacked piece of pastitsio Sam! Looks delicious.
Both my grandmothers (and my mother and my aunts in their turn) have always used just cinnamon to flavor the meat sauce in their pastitsio and as such I continue to do so as well. We just place one cinnamon stick in the "kima" as it is browning along with the onion, a bit of butter and tomato paste and then remove that cinnamon stick before layering in the casserole. Our bechamels are exactly the same except that my grandmothers seemed to think more was better so they've passed down a version of bechamel that features half a gallon of milk, 1 stick of butter, 12 tablespoons flour, 1/2 cup grated cheese, some nutmeg and 6 eggs!! (The bechamel is my favorite part of pastitsio!)
I actually my family's pastitsio about 10 days ago too.

chuck said...

Sam, I have to give this recipe a try. I want to explore Greek food more. When ever I go out for Greek I usually order Chicken Souvlaki. Your blog is going to help me expand my menu lol.

Joie de vivre said...

Send it to Rachel!

Núria said...

Wow Sam, love the way your pastitso looks... Mmmmm so yummy! I think that "authentic" versions don't exist anymore... I'm seeing all kind of weird things under the name of traditional Spanish cuisine but that is globalization, isn't it?

Anyways, I bet your Pastitso was superb and that is what counts!!!

Elly said...

Yum, I may make this before we return to the Greek Isles this spring. Food shopping and cooking in Greece is so much fun, always so fresh, bought at the markets. The tomatoes tastes like real tomatoes should taste and a Greek salad with extra tomatoes is the most requested food on board our yacht!
Please keep blogging! So far am enjoying your recipes.

Ivy said...

Cinnamon is a must in the Cypriot version of pastitsio and a sprinkle on top as well as is the most delicious.

Liliana said...

I have also watched Rachel Ray's version of some Italian dishes that left me wondering....

This dish sounds delicious - a dish my family will certainly enjoy.

Thanks for sharing your recipe.

8chocolate said...

This looks sooo good! It just looks like a lot of work. Roughly how long did it take to make not including the baking.

Anyone know a good greek restaurant in Vancouver? :) I mean really good 'like the old country'.

Musicianmommy said...

This looks fantastic. One of the few dishes we seem to not have a version of here in Turkey. I will try it very soon as I know my 4.5 year-old son will LOVE it!

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

Peter G - I understand what you mean, but I don't have to agree, right? Pastitsio is Pastitsio. I have eaten it in the four corners of Greece, and there is always a distinct and separate meat layer. My family, my wife's family and every one of my friends of Greek extraction know it in the same way that I do, I can assure you. The mixing together of the meat and pasta may be something your father does, but it is not part of what is commonly understood as Pastitsio. As for "kourkouti" it is usually translated as simply "batter". Anyway, thanks for your clarification. I don't agree but that is my prerogative. At least we do agree on the nutmeg, that much is common ground (I took the liberty of looking up your recipe). :-)

heidileon - Thank you for the kind words! As for Rachel, well, she likely won't contact me, but I will continue to offer her the chance to learn how to do it right.

kwr221 - By all means, please do! I am curious to hear back.

ltraider - Yes, you really should. It is quite good.

lisaiscooking - Enjoy it in Good Health! Do let me know how it worked out for you.

HoneyB - Great! I expect a full report. :-)

5 Star Foodie - Thank you! (I am smiling from ear to ear...)

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy - You're welcome! Give it a try and let me know how it turned out for you!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) - LOL! I loved the way you phrased that. No worries here, just follow the instructions and your Pastitsio should turn out as good (or better) than my own!

catnapping - You're welcome! I hope your daughter shares it with you! As for Rachel Ray, I have nothing against her personally, in fact, I think she's kinda cute. I just know that she made a mess out of a recipe that I am intimately familiar with, so I wanted to offer her some help when making Pastitsio the next time as she definitely needs it. :-)

Maria - Thanks! As for the cinnamon in Pastitsio, let me just say that I have only seen it online. Nobody I know makes Pastitsio with cinnamon. Do you happen to add allspice too? But you do add nutmeg in the bechamel so at least that much is familiar. As for the bechamel, I think your grandmother uses way too many eggs, they're unnecessary but for the colouring they add to the top layer. Anyway, you have your recipe and I have mine. Thanks for taking the time to comment, I appreciate your input. Enjoy!

chuck - I hope so! Forget the popularized fast Greek food and explore the real cuisine, it has much to offer. Have at it, my friend and enjoy! Let me know how it goes.

Joie de vivre - LOL! I would if I thought it was actually going to reach her personally.

Ivy - Well, if you say so. Did you at least like my version? Anyway, the Greek version of Pastitsio uses nutmeg and I am glad to say that Peter G and I are in agreement on that point. Don't just take our word for it though, feel free to look up N. Tselementes' recipe for Pastitsio published in 1950; there is no cinnamon in the meat or the bechamel, there is only nutmeg in the bechamel for him as well.

Núria - Thanks! As for the "authenticity" which you mention, perhaps it is time somebody (you and I?) started to lay down the law whenever we see "weird" things popping up under the guise of traditional Spanish/Greek cuisine(s). I am not a believer in globalization, I am a champion of cultural diversity. I want Spanish food to be Spanish and Greek food to be Greek. My blog reflects my beliefs in this regard as I know yours does too. So, let anybody say what they like... we know better! :-)

Liliana - Thank you! I am sure your family will enjoy it! please let me know. As for Rachel Ray and Italian cooking, honestly, I have only watched her maybe 3 times in total so I'll take your word for it, after all, it certainly would not surprise me after what she did with Pastitsio.

8chocolate - Thanks! Believe it or not, it only takes an hour from start to finish. :-) Wish I could recommend a Vancouver Greek resto to you, but I am not familiar with the Greek food scene there, I'm in Toronto.

Musicianmommy - You're welcome! I am sure your son will like it, most children do, it's one of those child-friendly dishes. As for Turkish variations of Greek dishes, I am sure there are a number of them, but do take a look through the rest of my blog, I am certain you will find more you are not familiar with. Enjoy!

Sjtientje said...

I was just thinking about what to cook next Saturday....Guess you solved my think quest. It looks like an easy and delicious dish to make.

gr. Christina

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

This sounds so good, Sam. I love Pastitsio and Moussaka, so you are making me really crave both right now. I have always been intimidated my both of these dishes, because they are so well loved and people really are particular about it. Kinda like Italians and their meatballs or lasagne... ;)

Indonesia-Eats said...

Good to know more about Greek food. I enjoy your writing. It happens also when somebody tried to represent sate, nasi goreng or bakmi with western version. We, the Indonesians just giggled

Kevin said...

Great looking pastitsio! What a perfect cut!

ΕΛΕΝΑ said...

Sam, pastitsio is of course one of our best dishes. Yours looks so delicious.
And of course nutmeg in bechamel is must.
I also believe that pastitsio is better next day:)

Cris said...

Oh that looks beautiful and yummy!

deb said...

I have a hard time between this dish and Mousakka. I love them both. I was fortunate to have worked in a Greek Restaurant and learned the long version of how to make this. So worth it. Let's face it though without the thick custard on top this dish would be beef and noodles. The bechamel is the key and the flavors in the bechamel for Pastitsio. Yummy!

I tried to make RR'S speady mousakka once and it was awful. She tries to hard to speed up dishes that NEED to take a long time to be worth eating.

Thanks Sam!

[eatingclub] vancouver || js said...

What beautiful pastitsio! Thank you for the detailed instructions on how to make this classic dish. It really does look perfect. I wasn't aware of the layers: thank you for setting me straight.

Yannis said...

Rachel Ray making pastichio? Ti allo tha akousw....I can't believe this. I am glad at times like this I live in the UK. Pandos Sam......congrats.
You did this beautiful Greek dish justice with your recipe.

For the Bechamel, a touch of Dijon mustard gives it a really nice kick. Seriously.

Also, I adore the use of really nice Parmigiana.

Have a great Sunday, and thanks for sharing this recipe. I just posted yesterday my favorite baked cod recipe (panostimo einai)

Elsee said...

Sam, as I tweeted (under the name "belsee"), this pastitsio came out fabulously. I didn't have the same casserole dish & ended up using a lasagna pan. Nevertheless, the layers were high & beautiful. All the Greeks I know here in the USA use cinnamon in the sauce. They also mix the sauce & pasta, as Peter alludes to in his comment, since my family comes from Thessaloniki. I made it w/o the cinnamon this time (true to the chef), but next time I will put just a pinch in the meat sauce. Your bechamel is perfectly thick, rich & light. Sits well & is smooth & light in the mouth...and mixing the pasta w/the egg whites (and some cheese) is a stroke of genius. This presentation is so worthy of a dinner party - less homey than mixing the meat & pasta together. Efcharisto pouli.

Jo said...

I've never had this before but it sure does look tasty.

Cynthia said...

Sam, I have bookmarked this and will definitely make it. Will let you know how it turns out.

Anonymous said...

This is very good. I am from a Greek family and Pastitsio is a norm. I have cooked my Yiayia's version for 30 years, but tonight I will prepare yours! Please tell me how you reheat, as I will make this the day before.

Wandering Coyote said...

I have a great recipe for Pastitsio from Canadian Living magazine that I make every so often, and it's really good. I love this stuff!!

ApplesH said...

How do you make it soo compact? I tried baking in corningware and my baked pasta just seem to crumble as I scoop it up. :(

Sue said...

Sam, pastitsio is one of my all time favorite Greek dishes. Your pastitsio looks wonderful and that picture is making my mouth water even though it's only 10am here. I will have to try your recipe for sure.

Talita said...

Sam, your blog is awesome! I never tried the greek cuisine but this will change soon! I already copied some recipes of yours.

Maria V. said...

Geiasou Sam! Amen on this post! I guess my family (Greeks in America) is one of the few that does not add extra spices to beschamel -- nutmeg and then leave it alone! Patsitsio is my absolute favorite food, and this is the only recipe I've seen online that gets my stamp of approval. S'efharisto Sam kai na se kala :)

MrOrph said...

Well done as usual Sam, but teaching RR would be difficult. I've seen her "work" other dishes in ways that make me cringe. It's no wonder chefs don't like her.

I have had pastitsio since I was a teenager and my step father made it.

I did see a recipe for it in a recent foody rag I get. This is right up my alley.

Gabi said...

Sam! How awesome this recipe is!
And coming to ethnic food authenticity, I'd rather trust people like you than the cook STARS on TV that just tweak their recipes only to sell their shows!

All power to you!


David Hall said...

Brilliant stuff Sam, never had pastichio but had lasagne a million times. This one is next on the menu.


Ricardo said...

I really like this type of foods, but when I went to Greece they were in most places swimming in olive oil, don't take me wrong I love olive oil special Greek, however is not necessary to exaggerate. Now this dish is totally right just nice and dry and delicious, just the right amounts in the right places ..loved it.

Moni said...

Bellissimo...complimenti !

Evelyne said...

This is a really bad blog to read just before lunch when I am STARVING. Looks so good I want some now lol

Sonya said...

I miss my father's pastitsio. His was divine.

Sonya said...

Oh, of course, yours looks great!

Anonymous said...

I am from Greece, Thessaloniki, and until I came to the USA I had never seen this constant use of cinnamon in meat sauce. It seems to be more of a tradition of Sterea Ellada and Peloponisos. As for whether it is mixed or the meat is a separate layer, the traditional pastitsio recipe always has separate layers. It is bastardized version that has the meat sauce mixed with the pasta. The classic version from Xrisa Paradisi is to mix the bottom pasta layer with a thinner version of the bechamel sauce and then layer them as Sam describes.

financiallyunsound said...

My best friend is Greek and this was something her mom would make all the time. Whenever she made it she'd call me over and always send me home with a big plate of it. I'm now all grown up with a family of my own and I crave her pastitsio. I searched online for recipes and I see some recipes calling for elbow macaroni and that's just wrong! Then I did an image search and yours looks identical to hers, so yours is the recipe I'm going to try. I am a vegetarian now, though, so instead of meat I'll have to use some veggie ground round. I'm worried that it won't be the same. The little bit of grease won't be at the bottom like the pastitsio I know and love. :( Wish me luck!

Becky said...

Sam, I have been watching the food channel, they had a a diner in Marietta, GA. that serves Greek food and they made Pastitsio. It looked so good that I went looking for the recipe, I found yours. I will make this soon, just as your recipe says. It looks so good, all my favorite ingredients, YUM.

Poly said...

My father is from Epirus and My mother is from Rhodos. Both areas have different versions. In Epirus the kima is "kokkinisto" and layered. In Rhodos a saltsa is made, no layers. Both add cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf & allspice to the kima. Very flavorful!

And to add, as a Greek, I'm insulted by Rachel Ray's recipe!! A real pastichio can be made in steps to cut down cooking time. This is meal that should not be rushed. AND I must also say, It always tastes better the next day. I think I'll make some right now!!

Jeri said...

Thanks for sharing this fabulous recipe! I was heading down to the Greek festival to buy a pan for $30, then decided to try making it first. Despite my 4 year old daughter dumping all the flour in the butter at once, it turned out great-as good as what we had at the festival. This is going to become one of my non-Greek family traditions!

Jennifer said...

The BEST Pastitsio I have ever made! I've tried a few different recipes....but this one is by far the best! It was also a lot easier than it seems. I made it for my family, my parents & an Aunt who just had surgery & everyone who had it said it was perfect! Even my husband thought it was delicious and tasted very authentic (like it should taste) - and he is a very picky eater!

Anonymous said...

I had this for dinner tonight at a restaurant. It was my first time to try it and I loved it. Wanting to try making it myself I did a google search for the recipe. After reading several different versions of the recipe I stumbled onto yours....and glad I did as your recipe sounds much like what I had at the restaurant tonight. I can't wait to try this. Thank you for sharing it!

Donna Heryawan said...

Hi Sam,

All was going so well with the recipe (despite the grated right hand finger and burnt left finger) until I attempted to make the bechamel sauce.
I heated 1/2 a cup of butter as described and added 1 cup of all purpose flour - half way through the flour adding process, the mixture no longer was a sauce consistency and resembled a ball of dough almost.

I persisted and threw the remaining flour in and then the scalded milk and had to mash and mix the sauce to make it smooth (but it was still lumpy)

Did I add too much flour? Is 1 cup too much? Other recipes suggest a lesser flour to butter ratio:

It was all going to well!!

Otherwise great recipe

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

Hi Donna,

The key is to work the bechamel sauce slowly. You need to add the flour slowly and whisk very quickly to incorporate it with the butter. I highly recommend the use of an immersion blender with a whisk attachment for this process. Sprinkle the flour slowly and in stages into the pan and whisking all the while.

Anonymous said...

I made your recipe last week. It was a huge hit with my dinner guests and I was very pleased with it. It tasted just how I remembered it from Greece. I made it with a combination of veal and lamb - some lamb is essential for making it taste "Greek" -- to me, anyway! (I'm not Greek, but did spend a couple of months traveling there in the 80's.

I was surprised at the bechamel though. It was much thicker and stiffer than I thought it would be. I couldn't pour it, but had to spoon it over the top and smooth it out. It tasted fine though and wasn't lumpy. (I added the flour, then the milk, in small increments.) Also, I used a full teaspoon of nutmeg in it and was glad I did.

I've passed this on to a couple of friends. Excellent recipe!

vanessa said...

Thank you so much for posting this awesome recipe!

I am not Greek but made your pastitsio for a friend who is and he raved about how good it was! I didn't know what it was supposed to taste like but I thought it was pretty darn good, too.

Apparently, pastitsio is not easy to come by in his local restaurants so he was pretty excited to be able to enjoy some even though he's so far away from the cooks in his family. Lol.

Thanks again, Sam. You helped me give a great (and delicious) treat to a great guy.

Angela said...

Hi Sam
In search of a recipe for a dish my mouth watered over yesterday, I came across your blog recipes.

For the last 4 years my husband and I (both Australian) have been sailing Greek waters and have fallen in love with the country. We are currently anchored off a tiny Greek island in the Dodecanese called Pserimos. The population in winter is around 30. There is one tiny village and a few goat trails around the island. We have been here nearly two weeks now and are loathe to move. It is a little slice of paradise.

I have now made the thyme scented trek over the hills to the village a few times and have gotten to know a widow called Sevasti who runs a taverna here in summer. In these troubled times the hospitality and generosity of the locals is overwhelming and I always make my return journey with a backpack bulging with goodies over and above what I have purchased.

Yesterday as I walked in her kitchen was fragrant with the smell of cooking. She announced she had spent the morning making Pastitsio and showed me the huge round tin tray cooling on the bench top. Well, after a long exhausting, mainly cross country walk to reach her, it tasted particularly wonderful. By the way, the fresh tang of mandarins and portokali from her family’s property in Kalimnos rounded off the meal perfectly.

Back on board I had to hunt up the recipe and came across your blog. It has been a pleasure to read and I thought I would drop you a note.

I will try making Pastitsio next time I find a butcher. It will be a challenge in my tiny galley and I am bound to truly make a mess, but the result will be worthwhile. The season calls for comfort food. There are no stores of any kind on this island, however, not even a small grocery store, so this will have to wait.

I plan to make Χριστόψωμο using your recipe on Christmas day.
Christmas greetings.


ΛΕΩΝ said...

last night was my father's birthday and i made pastitsio from your recipe and it was amazing so efxaristw polu!!! keep up the good work. -leon

MrsChac said...

Made this for Easter yesterday and it was a big hit with my hubby's Greek family. Doubled the recipe, using 3 lbs of ziti, 2 lbs ground lamb and 1 lb of veal.

My only comments are that, in my opinion, It would be significantly easier t make the pasta and the meat sauce at the same time and then the bechamel, Also, you failed to mention that you need to temper the egg yolks but I knew that so all was good.

Next year will have to remeber to get to the Greek supermarket to try the Greek pasta and the correct cheese - can't find that cheese anywhere except Astoria!

Hugo Freijanes said...
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Unknown said...

Thank you so much for sharing your mother's recipe! I'm so looking forward to making pastitsio for the first time this weekend...and with a recipe provided by a fellow Torontonian! Could you recommend a shop(s) on the Danforth for the no.2 pasta and the Kefalotyri?

Sam Sotiropoulos said...


There are a number of shops you can try, including Greek House food market on Danforth Ave., or Serano Bakery on Pape Ave., and there's also Select Bakery on Donlands Ave. The No. 2 pasta can also be found in Highland Farms and many No Frills/Loblaws/Superstore markets in the ethnic foods section(s). I certainly hope you enjoy the recipe and return to let me/us know how it turned out! Kali Orexi!

Melissa.Sanchez said...

Sam, thank you so much for this recipe. I lived in Chicago for awhile and fell in love with Greek food. When I moved back to Houston, my home town, I desperately missed Pastitsio during the winter. I made your recipe a month ago and I almost cried! It tasted just like what I would get in Greektown. I'm about to make it again tonight... Can't thank you enough! :)

Patricia Stagich said...

Happy to find a recipe without the cinnamon!!! Making it tonight and posting it on my blog - with credit to you of course! Thanks!

Joanna Robinson said...

Thanks so much for this authentic recipe. All the others I tried hadheaps of spices and tasted nothing like the dish I tasted almost 10 years ago. I made your rrecipe the other night and ....BINGO!! Absolutely perfect. Myself, my husband and 2 kids loved it to bits- I have been asked to make it again for an extended family dinner. THANK YOU! !!!

vanessa said...

I used your recipe to make pastitsio for my Cretan American boyfriend who was, at the time, living far away from all of his family and their home cooked meals. He was so impressed that he still, to this day, brags about how perfect it was. That was back in September 2011. I am thoroughly convinced that your recipe was a key component in winning his heart and his name, both of which I am incredibly proud and honored to have. Thanks so much.

Sincerely, Vanessa Providakis

Arsinoe Ferry said...

I can't wait to make this. I am debating whether or not to prepare and freeze it uncooked. I am having a party and want to do as much as possible ahead of time but I am not sure how this would do after being frozen, especially the bechamel sauce. Would you recommend this and if so, what process would you use? Freeze uncooked and thaw first? Any help would be really appreciated! Your recipe looks as authentic as it gets!

Arsinoe Ferry said...

Hello Sam! I can't wait to make this. Your recipe looks like the one my Thia Popi would make whenever I would visit her in Hania.

I need to make this for an event and was wondering what your thoughts were on freezing before baking? Would you recommend this and how?

I really appreciate any help!

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

Hello Arsinoe, yes, it's ok to freeze it cooked. We do it al the time. Just make sure to pop it straight into the oven from the freezer (and keep it covered). It will take some time to warm through, but it will be fine. Enjoy!

Pamela said...

I should have never left Salt Lake City. There are so many reasons it's better than the place I'm stuck in now. The Greek food, the Greek market, and the annual Greek festival are some reasons.

I was able to go up there and attend the Greek festival this year. I spent about $130 in there, mostly on food. About half of that was spent on grocery items, including two packages of the real #2 pastitsio pasta.

I have four Greek cookbooks but don't usually follow any one recipe to the letter. I'm planning to make pastitsio for the first time. I plan to use your recipe. Also, I'm happy to know exactly what type and size of baking dish you use.

Pamela said...

I should have never left Salt Lake City. There are so many reasons it's better than the place I'm stuck in now. The Greek food, the Greek market, and the annual Greek festival are some reasons.

I was able to go up there and attend the Greek festival this year. I spent about $130 in there, mostly on food. About half of that was spent on grocery items, including two packages of the real #2 pastitsio pasta.

I have four Greek cookbooks but don't usually follow any one recipe to the letter. I'm planning to make pastitsio for the first time. I plan to use your recipe. Also, I'm happy to know exactly what type and size of baking dish you use.

Marian The said...

What is the best way to reheat it the next day? Do you rebake it whole, or microwave individual pieces, or something else?

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

I re-heat individual pieces in the oven, in a clay dish, covered with aluminum foil. So, whatever manner you choose ought to be fine.

Kelly Spirer said...

Going to try this one tonight. My yiayia always seasoned the meat, just as you said not to, so I am going to try your way. The only thing I cannot give up that she did is adding phyllo to the top and bottom.

SheilaB said...
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SheilaB said...

I will be trying your delicious sounding Pastitsio recipe this weekend. I want to serve something fresh also. What is traditionally served, what do YOU serve when making Pastitsio? Greek salad seems like the obvious choice, but I worry it's too cliche. Yes, no? Can't wait to give it a try.

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

I serve it with a green salad, typically romaine lettuce, slivered green onions and dill, dressed with an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. But, you can try a coleslaw, if you like, although the Greek salad is also fine. As for bread being served with it, it does happen, but usually there's no need for any such accompaniment as it's quite a rich dish. Though, I will confess to having a piece of bread or two available to mop up any sauce/oil at the end of my meal...

Paula from Boston said...

I love pasticio and have recently been buying it from a local prepared food place, they sell it by the serving size at $4.95 each, it is made by a man who refers to himself as the "Greek Guy". I finally decided to make it myself and am so happy to have found your recipe! Your picture looks exactly like the one I have been buying. It took me longer to prepare as I kept checking the recipe, I did not want to mess it up! It is in the oven now, I can't wait to try it, although I am going to do my best to wait until tomorrow. It makes perfect sense to let it sit overnight to hold it together. Thanks for posting!

Regina Dineen said...

Hi Sam...I have been craving Pastitsio & have been searching for a great recipe to make for my best friend who is Greek (I am Italian). Can't wait to try this recipe! Will let you know how it turns out :)

Mel_C said...

This is quite an old post but came across it when looking for inspiration for our Greek themed dinner last night. I followed exactly as posted, even made the night before so I had the perfect cut, and it was delish! Hubby said it was just how he remembered yiayia woulda make it. So thank you! Will be making it again and again!

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

Dear Mel_C, thank you for your comment and kind words! I am pleased to learn you and your husband enjoyed my Pastitsio recipe, thanks for the feedback!

cathy said...

This is the most authentic recipe for Pastitsio that I have found on the net. Thanks for posting.

Elaine Burton Brown said...

Hi,I just love your recipe and have made it regularly, I was hoping to pin this recipe so I brag it to the world on Pinterest which will show you are the author. I'll be making this again later this week, as I have finally found the right greek pasta..
As I can not express such thanks for this great tasting recipe.

Brad Norris said...

Absolutely fantastic recipe. Thank you very much for sharing it! I've made it a couple of times now and everyone loved it.

Anonymous said...

Just realised you posted this several years ago! I've just made it and it's ready for the oven! :D Excited for my boys to try it! Thank you! :)

Erinn said...

Oh, this recipe. I cried reading it and will likely cry a little when I make it. I have been searching everywhere for a recipe on par with my grandmother's and cannot find one anywhere. She passed a few years ago and used to make this for me every year for my birthday (and a million times in between bc it is my favorite). I can picture standing in the kitchen with her, watching her making it, but cannot remember the details. So I've read through a million recipes trying to picture her doing each step and have not found one that fits my gram's actions... until this one. We miss her more than words can say and this will make it feel like she is here, even if it's just for a little while. My nephew's birthday is this weekend, so this is perfect timing. I'm not telling my sister I found your recipe; I'm just making it and showing up as a surprise. Can I ask how you recommend the reheating of it the following day? Temperature and time? Can I reheat it in the dish as is, or do I have to reheat it individually? Thanks so much!

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

Hello! Thank you for your lovely comment. I'm sure your gram was a special woman and I am flattered by your comparison. I hope you enjoy my recipe. As for reheating, just cover the entire thing lightly with aluminum foil and pop into the oven set at 350 for 20 minutes, or until you start to smell the pastitsio. Kali Orexi!

Karen Summers said...

My husband and I ordered this dish at our local diner. It was bad, as in something had literally gone bad! My husband asked if I was sure, he'd never had it and wasn't sure how it was supposed to taste. I said it's supposed to be delicious, not bad! I had to make it at home to prove to my husband that pastitsio is a good thing. I searched for a recipe and came upon yours. Just wonderful! Thank you!

Paparazzo said...

This turned out wonderful...except I made one newbie error that killed my layers. I was so focused on finding a "deep" enough dish (I didn't have a deep casserole dish) that I selected a 9 by 13 super deep lasagna pan...which was great depth wise...but ruined the layers as was way too big otherwise. I needed a much smaller pan/dish...deep...but not so big. Oh well - flavors were all there...layers were there just not very deep.

I'll get it next time! Thanks for sharing!