Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Pastitsio

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Pastitsio

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI guess those winter vibes are really kicking in, because I’ve made two batches of soup that are in the freezer, and the sidekick and I planned a day specifically to stay inside and cook. She suggested her grandmother Liberty’s pastitsio. Does everyone remember Liberty? We hung out at Ellis Island to retrace her steps, and when she turned 100 years old, Willard Scott read her name on The Today Show (she had no idea). Well, I was tricked. I imagined pastitsio to be some sort of flaky Greek pastry dish with lamb. Oh no, it’s just plain old lasagna but with more pots and pans. What makes this lasagna Greek is the tubular pasta (as opposed to the wavy sheets) and the addition of nutmeg. Other than that, just lasagna. Might as well be Stouffer’s. Like I said, I was tricked. And my apartment smelled like parmesan cheese for three days – that scent is permanently in my nasal cavities forevermore. That said, if you love lasagna or baked pasta dishes, you will love pastitsio.

Here, a step by step guide of the multi-process pastitsio. To save counter space and time, I put Twin Forks on my Sonos sound system, poured myself a glass of wine, and enjoyed cooking the meat the night before (in addition to a pot of Happiness Soup).

1/4 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tblsp fresh parsley, minced
1 lbs ground beef
1 tspn nutmeg
1/2 tspn ground cinnamon
1/2 cup white wine
8 oz tomato sauce (I bought it nice and fresh from Rana instead of canned)
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste

  1. In a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt 1/4 cup of the butter. Add onion. Add garlic. Add parsley. Saute until onion is translucent, about five minutes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPastitsio Onion Collage copy
  2. Add beef. Saute until lightly browned, about five minutes. Break up the meat as it cooks.Pastitsio Meat Collage copy
  3. Add cinnamon. Add nutmeg.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  5. Add tomato sauce. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  6. Add salt and white pepper. Simmer uncovered in the pot uncovered for 30 minutes, then remove from heat. This can be made ahead and put in the fridge overnight like I did. Just pull it out of the fridge when you start cooking again so it can be brought to room temperature.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And here we go, Day 2! Today we make the white sauce and assemble the pastitsio, using the meat from the night before.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen the sidekick took this picture, she said, “Ugh, it looks awful. It’s just a bunch of packages. All these things should be put in individual cute containers.” And yes, if the Cooking Channel was paying me, they would be.

Ingredients for white sauce:
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup butter
3 tblsp all-purpose flour
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste

Ingredients for pastitsio assembly:
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 lbs ziti pasta
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups Parmesan
4 cups white sauce

  1. Prepare the white sauce. Pour milk into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Watch it! Ours boiled over and poured down the side of the cabinets, bubbling onto the floor. Remove from the heat immediately once boiling.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. In a second saucepan or skillet that is larger than the saucepan you used for boiling milk, melt butter. Add flour. Cook, stirring, until well-blended and bubbly, about 3 minutes. Do not allow mixture to color. Paula Deen calls this a rue. Apparently Liberty calls this nothing. Reduce heat to low. Gradually add hot milk, stirring continuously.Pastitsio Rue Collage copy
  3. Season with salt and white pepper. Increase heat to medium. Stir often until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. This is the white sauce. Put aside.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  4. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  5. Salt the water. Add ziti and cook until al dente. Bite one of the zitis, the inside should be ever so slightly hard because it will continue to cook and you don’t want gooey, soft ziti in your pastitsio.
  6. Drain ziti and put in a large pot. Melt butter and pour into pasta.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  7. Pour lightly beaten eggs into pasta. Toss to mix well.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  8. Add a generous sprinkling of cheese (about 1/2 cup) and toss again.Pastitsio Parmesan Collage copy
  9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a deep 9″ x 13″ baking dish.
  10. Spread 1/2 of the pasta across the bottom of the dish.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  11. Cover the bottom pasta layer with the meat. Make sure you spread these layers evenly!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  12. Sprinkle with cheese (approx. 1/4 cup) evenly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  13. Spread the remaining pasta on top. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  14. Sprinkle with cheese again (approx. 1/4 cup).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  15. Now warm that white sauce up just a bit so that the skin on the top breaks and it will pour nice and smoothly. Pour the white sauce evenly over the top.Pastitsio White Sauce Collage copy
  16. Sprinkle lavishly with cheese (about 1/2 cup). Dust with nutmeg as shown by the baby Grinch hand below.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  17. Bake in the oven until nicely browned, about 1 hour. Let it cool about 20 minutes before you cut into squares so they uphold their shape nicely.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Pastitsio Final Product Collage copy OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thanks for dinner, Liberty!

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