Pastichio (Greek Lasagna)

Add international flavor to your holidays with Pastichio, or Greek-style lasagna. The smells and flavors in this comfort-food casserole provide a warm and festive experience for the senses. This recipe makes enough to serve a crowd; or freeze leftover portions after baking to enjoy again later.

pastichio

Recipe and photograph by Lauren McElwain

2 pounds ziti noodles
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large chopped onion
4 cloves minced garlic
5 finely chopped carrots
4 stalks finely chopped celery
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
1 Tablespoon ground thyme
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of sugar
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste

Béchamel Sauce:
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
4 large eggs, beaten

Heat oven to 350°F.

Chop vegetables and heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the veggies to the pan, and cook, stirring often, until they soften (about 5-7 minutes).

Once onions are translucent, add ground beef and some salt and pepper. Crumble the beef as it cooks with a spoon or spatula. Cook for about 8-10 minutes until no pink remains.

Add chicken broth, and cook for another five minutes. Stir in cinnamon, oregano, thyme and cumin, and cook, stirring, for a few more minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and a pinch of sugar, and turn the stove down to simmer on low for 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile, cook ziti according to package instructions. After draining the cooked pasta, drizzle with olive oil and shake it up so noodles do not stick together.

For the béchamel sauce, heat milk and cream together in the microwave for about 1½ minutes until warm. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add flour, and cook, over medium heat, whisking constantly for 2 minutes.

Pour the warm milk and cream mixture into the butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 5-7 minutes until smooth and thick.

Turn off the heat, and carefully stir in beaten eggs (temper so they don’t scramble). Add nutmeg, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese, and stir until smooth.

To assemble, evenly distribute the ziti on the bottom of two large casserole dishes. Add a big spoonful of the meat sauce to the pasta, stirring to coat the pasta. Evenly distribute the rest of the meat sauce over the noodles.

Pour béchamel sauce over everything in a thick layer until it is all covered.

Bake in the oven, uncovered, for approximately 1 hour, until the top is golden brown.

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