I have called this recipe Pastitsio the Greek way as opposed to the Makaronia tou Fournou, which is the one we make in Cyprus.
Pastitsio is a layered Greek pasta casserole dish. There are variations throughout the regions of Greece with a few minor different spices but typically the bottom layer is bucatini or other tubular pasta with cheese and egg as a binder, or some of the béchamel cream. If we do not add the cream our pasta will not stick together but will spread in the plate during serving. The second layer is a ground meat sauce (usually beef or veal but it can also be substituted with pork, a mixture of veal and pork mince or chicken or turkey mince) with fresh tomatoes and cinnamon, (cloves, nutmeg and allspice are a few other spices used). On top of the sauce there is another layer of pasta and on top of that is a thick creamy Béchamel sauce with myzithra or graviera (read here to find out about these Greek cheeses) grated and mixed in the pasta as well as in the béchamel sauce and some sprinkled on top together with a hint of cinnamon.
Authentic Greek Pastitsio
Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: about 45 minutes
Serves: 1 baking tin 35 x 30 cm / 14 x 12 inches
1 packet (500 grs.) of tubular spaghetti No. 3 or No. 6
1 cup of grated graviera or myzithra cheese (extra for the bechamel)
500 grams (1.10 lbs) ground beef or veal
1 red onion finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
3 ripe tomatoes peeled and blended (or 1 can 500 grams of whole tomatoes, blended)
1 tbsp tomato paste
½ cup of dry white wine (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
A pinch of ground cloves
1/2 tsp oregano
See recipe and step by step instructions here.
Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent. Add the ground meat and sauté until it turns white.
Add wine and stir until it evaporates and add salt, pepper, oregano, cinnamon and cloves. Finally add tomatoes and tomato paste. Reduce heat and simmer until it is cooked and most of the juices evaporate. Remove from the heat and mix in the parsley.
Meantime, prepare the béchamel sauce and pasta.
Boil water and add salt and a tablespoon of olive oil and prepare the pasta al dente, according to the package instructions. Remove from the heat and place it in cold water. When ready to use drain and mix in the cheese.
Dilute 3 heaped spoonfuls of béchamel cream with some milk to make a thinner cream.
Divide the pasta in two equal parts and in half of it mix in the diluted béchamel sauce.
Put this pasta as the bottom layer and then add the ground meat on top and add remaining pasta on top.
Finally, add the béchamel sauce to cover pasta and sprinkle with some grated cheese and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C / 350 F for 45 minutes or until a golden brown.
Other relevant recipes: