The Greek version of lasagne? A meaty version of mac & cheese? Nah, I think this dish is unique! (and darned tasty ;) )

Cooling Penne
Fragrant Mince & Cheesy Bechamel

Like Moussaka, the mince in Pastitsio is seasoned with sweet spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg etc. I like to make it slightly different to Moussaka so I use cinnamon & nutmeg rather than cinnamon and cloves, just a personal quirk ;) but then again, that's what cooking's all about, your personal preferences imprinting a unique taste to your dish. I know that I put amounts for spices etc in the recipes posted, but honestly, when baking I'll stick to the recipe, but when it comes to cooking I change things and go by feel, so I might say 1tsp of cinnamon, but in all honesty, I just throw it in until I'm happy with the flavour.

Pastitsio Being Assembled

Basically, Pastitsio is a layer of cheesy macaroni, a layer of aromatic mince, another layer of cheese laced macaroni, then a layer of creamy cheese bechemal & topped off with (more!) grated cheese. It's not actually as cheese filled as it sounds, it has just enough for a fantastic flavour.

Cheesy Pasta

This dish is really great for a dinner party, it can be assembled the day before (up till the bechemal) and simply topped off with the sauce & popped into the oven an hour or so before your guests arrive, always a bonus as you'll be busy enough with other things :) It's also great for freezing single portions so if you're feeling a little lazy & tired or even if you have unexpected visitors, you have something ready on hand. Like the Moussaka, my mom would make a huge dish and have it in the fridge, a perfect after school meal for the next few days :)

Since introducing Pastitsio to my husband, he gets quite excited when I say I'll be making it "Oh! Is that the macaroni one? Mmmmmm!!!!" *dreamy look in his eyes and near drooling point* (or something close to that ;) ) It has a unique taste and is good straight out the fridge or warmed up for a snack, lunch or dinner, or even straight out the dish somewhere around the midnight mark ;)

Lovely Cheesy Crust

Give this dish a try, it won't dissapoint!


Meat Sauce

1½ kg Beef or Lamb Mince (or half of each)

2 Large Cloves Garlic, crushed

1 Large Onion, chopped

1 Can Tomatoes

1 Tbsp Tomato Purée

2 tsp Cinnamon

1½ tsp Nutmeg

Olive Oil, for frying

Salt & Pepper, to taste

Macaroni Layers

500g Macaroni or Penne

3 Eggs, lightly beaten

1 Cup (250g) Parmesan/Romano Cheese, grated


4 (1l) Cups Milk

6 Tbsp Butter

8 Tbsp Plain Flour

1 Cup (250g) Parmesan/Romano Cheese, grated

4 Egg Yolks

Nutmeg, Salt & Pepper


½ Cup Parmesan/Romano Cheese, grated

1 Cup Mozarella, grated


Prepare Meat Sauce

  • Heat olive oil in large pot
  • Saute onions until transparent
  • Add mince & brown
  • Tip: To stop mince from boiling, fry small amounts in a seperate pan then add to the large pot
  • Mix in canned tomato, tomato purée, crushed garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt & pepper
  • Simmer until sauce is think & liquid has cooked away
  • Set aside to cool

Prepare Pasta

  • While meat is simmering, boil pasta in salted water until slightly underdone
  • Drain & toss with olive
  • When cool, mix pasta with 1 cup grated cheese & beaten eggs

Prepare Bechamel

  • Melt butter on low heat
  • Stir in flour & mix with with wooden spoon to remove lumps
  • Remove from heat & gradually pour in milk, mixing with whisk constantly
  • Return to heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens
  • Remove from heat & season with nutmeg, salt & pepper to taste
  • Stir in 1 cup grated cheese, allow to cool slightly
  • Stir in egg yolks & mix until smooth

Assemble & Bake

  • In lightly greased ovenproof dish (36cm X 24cm X 6cm / 14" x 9.5" x 2.5"), spread half the pasta over the bottom of the dish
  • Evenly spread meat sauce over pasta
  • Spread the remaining pasta over meat sauce
  • Pour bechamel over the pasta & spread evenly
  • Bake at 160°C (140°C Fan Assisted) for 30 minutes
  • Sprinkle with ½ cup grated parmesan & 1 cup mozarella & bake for another 20-30minutes until sauce rises and top turns golden
  • Remove dish from oven & allow to cool for about 30mins before serving

Other Tips:

Always allow too cool for about 30 mins after being removed from the oven, otherwise you'll be dishing up a messy pasta soup ;)

Can be prepared the day before

  • Prepare until bechamel, cover & refrigerate
  • Prepare bechamel & bake (as in recipe) on the day

Can be frozen

  • Assemble pastitsio (including bechamel), & once competely cool, cover well with plastic wrap & tin foil, freeze
  • Defrost in the fridge & bake according to recipe

Can be baked & frozen in portions

  • Assemble & bake according to recipe
  • Allow to cool completely then divide into smaller or single portions
  • Wrap well with cling film & foil, freeze
  • Defrost in fridge & heat in oven or at low power in microwave

Pastitsio is normally eaten at room temperature & even good straight out the fridge :)

As stated in the ingredients list, you can use both beef and/or lamb mince. I find a good flavour with using half & half

It's not traditionally sprinkled with mozarella but I find using only parmesan/romano cheese is a bit too strong, besides, mozarella is a fantastic topping, why else is it on pizza? ;) My mom would use a mix of mozarella & cheddar or gouda 'cause parmesan was too strong for me when I was a kid

Posted on September 26, 2009 and filed under Greek, Savoury.