Pastitsio Recipe

I’m not to sure why casseroles have such a bad reputation. When I was a kid, I would always hear my classmates complaining about eating casseroles. I have no idea what they were complaining about. Whenever I got to eat casseroles at my babysitter’s house, they were delicious. Then again, I was only five and my babysitter had the habit of rolling cigarettes while she was cooking, but I remember her casseroles being creamy delicious messes of meat and pasta.

I have a deep love for casseroles. I like one dish meals and casseroles, with their creamy, messes of starch and meat are the ideal. Pastitsio is a great example of what I look for in a casserole: a hearty meat, a starch and some creaminess. The cinnamon spiced lamb and Parmesan béchamel make this dish extremely satisfying on a rainy day.

Pastitsio Recipe adapted from

Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 pound penne, cooked and drained
1 pound ground lamb
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 can (3 ounces) tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta, and drain; reserve. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, over medium heat, cook lamb, breaking apart pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Add onions; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the wine and cook over medium heat until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.
Stir in tomato paste, cinnamon, and 1 cup of water; simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Make Parmesan Cheese Sauce while mixture is simmering: In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; whisk in flour until incorporated. In a slow steady stream, whisk in milk until there are no lumps.
Cook, whisking often, until mixture is thick and bubbly and coats the back of a wooden spoon, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in cayenne, if desired, and Parmesan.
Add pasta to lamb mixture; transfer to a baking dish. Pour sauce over the top, smoothing with the back of a spoon until level. Bake until browned in spots, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool 15 minutes before serving.

*Note: I was impatient and didn’t bake my casserole, instead I stirred the cheese sauce in with the pasta and topped it with some Italian parsley.

10 Comments add yours

  1. Make Parmesan Cheese Sauce while mixture is simmering. Do you offer a recipe for the Parmesan Cheese Sauce?

  2. duh. I just saw it.

  3. Not that this doesn’t look tasty but pastitsio/παστίτσιο is a Greek dish that is layered and baked. It is made with long tubular pasta, ground meat (usually beef) and béchamel. I’m not too sure what this is.

    I skipped out on the baking and stirred the béchamel in so it’s not very traditional, I know. You can take a look at the marthastewart link where the pastitsio probably looks more like what you’re expecting.

    I’m Greek so I’m sure I have a better recipe than Martha if you’re interested!

    Nic on September 22nd, 2010 at 12:57 am
    steph on September 20th, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    omg… i’m with u nic… real-greek-pastitsio is the best ever!!!!! i like adding some carrot to my ”kima”, and nutmeg and loads of cheese in my bechamel!!!!then some cheese and ”galeta” (i have no idea what that’s in english) on top!!! love love love pastitsio!!!

    georgia on November 11th, 2010 at 1:06 am
  4. This looks and sounds delicious! I can’t wait to give it a try.


    1# ziti, boiled, drained (set aside)

    2# gr beef, browned
    1 chopped onion, sauteed
    1 small can tomato paste
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    salt, pepper to season
    1 cup water (mix, simmer 3-5 minutes)

    4T butter, melted
    4T flour -whisk into butter
    4C milk – whisk into butter/flour
    1 to 1 1/2 C grated cheese (asiago or romano)-stir into
    white sauce.

    Mix ground beef mixture with pasta. Dump into greased 9×13 pan or large casserole. Pour cheese sauce (bechamel) over top. Jiggle dish slightly to allow seepage into the pasta mixture. Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes. Let cool 10-15 minutes (to set) before cutting/serving.

    Add just a little nutmeg to the Bechamel — heavenly!

    Alia on February 26th, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    I don’t remember doing this, but I’d say that the directions on MY recipe look kind of wacky. For those interested, follow these steps. Boil and drain ziti. Set aside.

    Brown ground beef till fully cooked throughout. Add tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly for about 3-4 minutes. (this cooks the raw taste out of it). Add water, cinnamon and salt and pepper and cook about 5 minutes on simmer. Mix sauce with pasta. Hold on stove (turn off heat)while preparing bechamel sauce.

    Bechamel sauce^^^

    In large saucepan, melt:

    4T butter

    Whisk in:

    4T flour

    Whisk in:

    4C whole milk.

    Stir over medium heat (stir constantly)until bubbly and thickened. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in 1 and a half (1.5) cups grated romano or asiago (fresh).


    Pour pasta/meat mixture in buttered casserole or 9×13 pan.

    Pour bechamel over top -Jiggle dish slightly to allow cheese to ease its way into the pasta mixture..but not too much-you want the cheesey sauce to completely cover the pasta and brown slightly.

    Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes. Remove, cool 10-15 minutes before cutting.

    ~~~~~And Alia – I’m gonna try the nutmeg~~~sounds great.

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