Pastitsio (Baked Greek Lasagna with Meat Sauce and Béchamel)
350g (12 ounces) macaroni for Pastitsio (you can substitute penne or ziti)
110g feta cheese (4 ounces)
For the meat sauce
700g lean minced beef (25 ounces)
2 medium sized red onions (finely chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
400g canned plum tomatoes (14 ounces)
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp sugar
a glass of red wine
a bay leaf
a pinch of cinnamon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the béchamel
100g flour (3.5 ounces)
100g butter (3.5 ounces)
900ml milk (3 and 3/4 cups)
2 eggs yolks
100g Parmigiano-Reggiano or Kefalotyri (3.5 ounces)
a pinch of nutmeg
Prepare the meat sauce for the pastitsio. Heat a large pan to medium -high heat and add 2 tbsp of olive oil; stir in the chopped onions and sauté, until softened and slightly colored. Stir in the garlic, tomato puree and the beef mince, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and sauté. Pour in the red wine and wait to evaporate. Add the tinned tomatoes, the sugar, a pinch of cinnamon, 1 bay leaf and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer with the lid on for about 30 minutes, until most of the juices have evaporated.
Prepare the béchamel sauce for the pastitsio. Use a large pan to melt some butter over low-medium heat. Add the flour whisking continuously to make a paste. Add warmed milk in a steady stream; keep whisking in order to prevent your sauce from getting lumpy. If the sauce still needs to thicken, boil over low heat while continuing to stir. Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the egg yolks, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and the grated cheese. Whisk quickly, in order to prevent the eggs from turning an omelette!
Cook the pasta 2-3 minutes less than the package instructions, so that they don’t get mushy after turning out of the oven later. Drain the pasta; stir in the eggs, the feta cheese (smashed with a fork) and mix lightly with a spatula.
Stir 1/4 of the bechamel sauce into the meat sauce.
Assemble the pastitsio. Butter the bottom and sides of a pan (approx.20×30 cm) and layer the pasta; pour in the meat sauce and even out. Top the pastitsio with the bechamel sauce; smooth out with a spatula.
Sprinkle with some grated cheese and bake in a preheated oven at 180-200C for about 40 minutes, until crust turns a light golden brown. Let the pastitsio cool down for a while before serving.