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Nikki’s Perfect Pastitsio

My mother used to work so hard in the kitchen to make this classic Greek dish, and the results were always well worth her effort. My recipe for pastitsio is easier, a bit lighter and every bit as great as Mom's.—Nikki Tsangaris, Westfield, Indiana
  • Total Time
    Prep: 45 min. Bake: 50 min.
  • Makes
    12 servings

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups uncooked penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground sirloin
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • BECHAMEL SAUCE:
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 cups 2% milk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Directions

  • Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Toss with butter; add grated Parmesan cheese. Transfer to a greased 13x9-in. baking dish.
  • Preheat oven to 350°. In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat 8-10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink, breaking beef into crumbles; drain. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes longer. Stir in tomato sauce, salt and cinnamon; heat through. Spoon over pasta. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese.
  • In a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth; gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir 1-2 minutes or until thickened.
  • In a small bowl, whisk a small amount of hot mixture into eggs; return all to pan, whisking constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes. Pour over beef mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  • Bake, covered, 20 minutes. Bake, uncovered, 30-40 minutes longer or until golden brown.

Test Kitchen Tips
  • To save time and avoid dirtying a dish, feel free to skip the draining step after cooking the beef and onions. The sauce will be slightly richer, but sirloin is fairly lean so there shouldn't be much fat in the pan.
  • Whisk constantly when adding milk to the roux (the flour and butter mixture). The whisk will help break up any lumps of flour so your sauce is silky smooth.
  • This recipe makes a mountain, which is great if you're having a big gathering or just want lots of leftovers. But you can easily scale this recipe down to a more manageable size by cutting it in half.
  • The addition of warm spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice is a defining characteristic of pastitsio (which, incidentally, translates to "hodgepodge"). If you want to test the waters first, try adding half the amount of cinnamon called for in the recipe.
  • Nutrition Facts
    1 piece: 332 calories, 18g fat (10g saturated fat), 98mg cholesterol, 718mg sodium, 24g carbohydrate (6g sugars, 1g fiber), 20g protein.