It's Secret Recipe Club time again! This month I was assigned Sarah's Kitchen - a name that I love, obviously. Sarahs of the world unite! Sarah is from England, but now lives in Texas - which is kind of funny because I'm from Texas and once lived in Ireland (which I realize is not the same as England, but is geographically/culturally similar). Spooky.
Anyway, I was clearly craving a casserole while looking through Sarah's blog because every recipe I was drawn to was one. Like this Stovetop Beef and Penne Casserole, this Eight Layer Casserole, these two Mexican Casseroles, this Chicken and Dumplings Casserole, and this Turkey Tetrazzini. They all looked tempting, but as soon as a saw a recipe for Pastitsio, I was done. This Greek lasagna like casserole is one of my all time favorite dishes. So let's make it!
Start by sauteing onions and garlic, then browning beef. I actually chose to use half beef and half lamb.
When the beef is browned, stir in tomato paste.
Then add beef broth, a cinnamon stick, whole cloves, bay leaves, fresh parsley, salt, and pepper. Let this simmer on low, partially covered, for an hour.
While the sauce simmers, start a bechamel with a butter and flour roux.
Add milk, and when it is the right thickness season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Then add Kefalotyri cheese (which I couldn't find, so I used Pecorino Romano), 2 eggs, and 1 egg yolk. I've never added eggs to a bechamel before, but it turned out really nicely.
Also meanwhile, cook your pasta. Then add butter, an egg, and Mizithra cheese (I used Ricotta Salata) to it.
At this point, the sauce should be nice and thick. Remove the cinnamon stick, cloves, and bay leaves.
Begin to layer a buttered casserole dish with half the pasta.
Next, add all of the sauce.
Then the rest of the pasta. Note - I would probably mix the pasta and sauce together next time as one big layer.
Top with the bechamel, more Kefalotyri cheese (or Romano), and breadcrumbs. I mixed the cheese and breadcrumbs with some olive oil to keep them from drying out in the oven, but that's totally optional.
Bake for 45 minutes, then enjoy! I love the spiced meat sauce, and the creamy bechamel - this recipe definitely tastes authentic.
adapted from Sarah's Kitchen
For the ragu:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs ground beef (can use lamb, as well)
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
2 cups beef broth
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 or 2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
For the bechamel:
6 tbsp butter
2/3 cup flour
1 qt milk
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup Kefalotyri cheese (or Pecorino Romano)
1 egg yolk
1 lb rigatoni or penne pasta
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup grated Mizithra cheese (or Ricotta Salata)
1/4 cup Kefalotyri cheese (or Pecorino Romano)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Heat olive oil in a large pan, add onions and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef, brown, then drain the fat from the pan. Stir in the tomato paste.
Add the beef broth, cinnamon stick, cloves, parsley, bay, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered, for an hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the cinnamon stick, cloves, and bay.
Melt butter in a large pan. Stir in the flour, cooking for a few minutes until golden brown. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly with a whisk to combine well. Bring to a boil and let cook for a few minutes, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Take off the heat and add the grated nutmeg, kefalotyri cheese, eggs, and egg yolk.
Cook the pasta to al dente, drain, and add the beaten egg, butter, and the mizithra cheese.
Grease your baking dish and add half the pasta, all of the meat sauce, then the other half of the pasta.
Pour all of the bechamel over the pasta and top with the kefalotyri cheese and breadcrumbs.
Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.