It’s Greek to me February 17, 2012Posted by Peeps in Cook's Country, Cooking, Food, random stuff.
No, I’m not planning on talking about all the financial insanity going on in Greece. I don’t understand it all and I don’t want to. I want to talk about pastitsio.
Have you ever had it? It’s pretty much Greek lasagna. Pasta and meat sauce and cheese and a rich white sauce that all get baked in the oven. It’s one of our favorite wintertime comfort foods. It’s a tad fussy to make, but those delightful people at Cooks’s Country put out a recipe for it last year that is definitely a keeper.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add one finely chopped onion once the oil is hot and cook the onion until soft, about five minutes.
Once the onion is soft, add three tablespoons of tomato paste, two teaspoons of dried oregano (Greek if you have it), two teaspoons of ground cinnamon and six cloves of minced garlic to the pan and cook for another two minutes.
Add one and a half pounds of lean ground beef to the pan along with one teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring, until beef is no longer pink, about five minutes. Then add half a cup of red wine and cook until the wine has reduced to about a tablespoon. That should take another five minutes or so.
Now add one 15 ounce can of tomato sauce and cook for about ten minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened. Turn off the heat, and stir in half a cup of Romano cheese. Set aside, the sauce part is done.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and heat a large pot with four quarts of water for the pasta.
Normally, you would use half a pound of elbow macaroni for this dish. But a while ago, my wife found a package of long ziti while she was at the market, and she couldn’t resist buying it. And when she did a little research as to how you should use such a thing, the only references she came across were for pastitsio. So, we decided to try it.
Once your water is boiling add a tablespoon of salt and your half pound of pasta to the water and cook until just a little firmer than al dente, about four minutes. Drain pasta into a colander and rinse with cold water until cool. Once pasta is completely drained, transfer it to a large bowl.
In the same pot you cooked the pasta in, melt five tablespoons of butter. Once melted add three minced cloves of garlic and half a cup of flour. Cook, stirring constantly for about a minute. Slowly whisk in five cups of milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for about twelve minutes and sauce has reduced a bit.
Remove from heat and add a cup of Romano cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
Take two cups of the white sauce and add to the pasta and stir until well combined. Place sauced pasta into a 9X13 baking dish, making as even a layer as you can.
In the bowl you had the pasta in, beat three large eggs. Slowly add about a cup of the white sauce to the eggs, whisking constantly. Add egg mixture back into the rest of the white sauce and stir in one third of a cup of Greek yogurt. If you don’t have Greek yogurt, or just don’t feel like buying it, drain about half a cup of yogurt in a coffee filter set in a small strainer for about an hour. That’s close enough for government work.
Now we’re ready to assemble. Place the pan with the pasta in it onto a sheet pan. You really don’t want to do this step when the pan is full, trust me. Add the meat sauce to the baking pan and smoth it out to make another even layer.
Then pour the egg, yogurt, white sauce mixture over the top, smoothing it out to completely cover the meat sauce layer.
Finally, sprinkle half a cup of Romano cheese on top and put in the oven to bake until golden brown on top, about 40 minutes.
When finished baking, let cool for at least ten minutes before serving.
What can I say? It’s a little more than an hour’s work. Your kitchen will smell fantastic. And you will have an utterly fantastic meal that will feed a crowd. Or lots of leftovers. And did I mention that you can let this cool completely and cut it into serving sized portions and wrap and freeze them? And that they reheat very nicely?
Try this. Please. Your tummy will thank you.