Greece: The Cookbook: Pastitsio

The August choice for Food52 Cookbook Club is Greece: The Cookbook by Vefa Alexiadou. It is a huge treasure trove of recipes and I actually found it overwhelming to look through. I remember one time when I was sick that a friend of mine brought our family Pastitsio for dinner to save me from cooking and how much I loved that dish. It is sort of a mixture between macaroni and cheese and lasagne, so comfort food forward. That was years ago and I’ve never had the dish again so when I spotted a recipe for it, it was an obvious choice to try.

As I said, it’s a mixture between lasagne and macaroni & cheese so you can expect a fair few components to the dish. The recipe unfortunately is not written with multitasking in mind, so I’m glad I’m familiar with the components so that I could factor in the multitasking to get this done much quicker than it could’ve taken following the recipe step by step.

The first thing I did was get a pot of water boiling to cook the penne pasta – I did this just like the box instructs. Meanwhile, I got the meat sauce started and the white sauce. The meat sauce was nothing out of the ordinary, cook onions, beef mince, canned tomatoes, seasoning, a bit of cinnamon, sugar and parsley – but then you whip through an egg white (?!) and mix in some cheese. I must admit I was surprised there was no garlic in the recipe. The white sauce is a simple bechamel – butter and flour and milk, then nutmeg, salt and pepper and more cheese and egg yolks (?!) – the use of eggs was definitely a surprise and I’m not sure what it added other than richness. You stir some more cheese through the pasta and then start layering everything into a casserole dish before baking in the oven.

To layer it up you start with half the pasta, pour the meat sauce over, then the remaining pasta and then pour the white sauce over everything. It says to cook for about an hour and I did, but I covered it halfway through because it was getting dark on top and I don’t like crunchy pasta. Next time I’d cover it until the last 15 minutes of cooking.

This was an incredibly yummy dinner and while it didn’t plate up nicely, everyone ate some, even the younger two! I will definitely make a variation of this dish again for our family.