I am thrilled to be sharing this pastitsio with you because it’s ridiculously delicious.
If you don’t know what pastitsio is, it’s a Greek baked pasta. It has layers of cheesy pasta, ground beef, and béchamel sauce. I’ve made this pastitsio many times before and usually for a holiday dinner party. I have a big family so I’ve made two different sizes, large and extra large. It’s always a hit. Always. I’ve never changed one thing about it, except for the quantity. I’ve never made a small portion of pastitsio though. (See where this is going? ;))
A few weeks ago, I was craving pastitsio but I had two issues standing in my way of making it right away. First, I didn’t want to make it and have a ton of leftovers. While I love this pastitsio, it’s a rich meal and it’s not something that you want to eat multiple days in a row as leftovers (or, at least we don’t). So my husband and I finally sat down and finagled the original pastitsio recipe to fit into a loaf pan.
Second, I didn’t have all of the ingredients, even for this smaller size version. I was going to wing it and use substitute ingredients (like ground chicken instead of ground beef and low fat milk instead of whole milk). I was even going to try a skillet version. But nope. I just couldn’t go there. I wanted the real deal one. This is one of this dishes that I won’t cut corners on. In fact, it’s got to be “the one” that I make or nothing at all. Yup, it’s that good. So I patiently waited to hit the grocery store to get all of the right ingredients.
Viola, pastitsio for two! Well, two really hungry people. It’s a whole loaf pan worth, so if you cut it in half for two people to enjoy, they will each get a truly massive piece. You could easily get three or even four servings out of one pan worth, but especially if you’re also serving Greek salad, bread, and cheese (which I highly recommend).
I’ve wanted to share this pastitsio with you for years but it’s really hard to take photos of food while you’re entertaining. So for now I hope you enjoy this smaller portion recipe. I definitely will share the normal size recipe with you at some point, but until then you can click on the source (below) if you’re anxious to get a head start on the full sized version.
Disclaimer here is that some of the things in this mini-recipe will mean opening a can for just a little bit of what’s in it. Sorry about that, but getting the ratios right was a more important consideration for me than trying to come up with a way to use that tomato paste this recipe left behind. Also, the amount of spices is flexible a little, just shoot for about half full on an 1/8 teaspoon measuring spoon.
Pastitsio for Two Recipe
(Makes 2 large servings)
Ingredients for the Meat Mixture:
- 2 tablespoons butter (1/4 stick)
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 1/2 chop chopped onion
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons water
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/16 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/16 teaspoon allspice
- 1/16 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/16 teaspoon pepper
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
Ingredients for the Pasta Mixture:
- 4 ounces pasta (I use mini ziti.)
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg, beaten
Ingredients for the Béchamel/Cream Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 egg, beaten
Directions for the Meat Mixture:
- In a skillet, over Medium heat, melt the butter.
- Add the ground beef, mix it into the melted butter, and cook it until it’s cooked through.
- Push the ground beef to one side of the skillet and add the chopped onion and minced garlic to the other side of the skillet. Cook the onion mixture until it’s soft.
- Mix together the ground beef and onion mixture.
- Add in the water and salt, stir everything together, and continue to cook it until the water is evaporated (or mostly so). You will still see liquid from the fat of the ground beef, which is normal.
- Add in the nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and pepper, and mix everything together
- Add in the tomato paste and mix everything again.
- Take the skillet off the heat and set it aside.
Directions for the Pasta Mixture:
- Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.
- Once it’s done cooking, drain the pasta. Then rinse it with cool water and drain it again to get the temperature of the pasta down.
- Place the pasta into a bowl.
- Add in the melted butter and grated Parmesan cheese and mix everything together.
- Add in the beaten egg and mix everything again. Set the pasta mixture aside.
Directions for the Béchamel/Cream Sauce:
- In a saucepan, over Low heat, melt the butter.
- Add in the grated Parmesan cheese, flour, half and half, and milk. Stir everything together constantly until it’s thickened. The sauce should coat a wooden spoon. It took about 15 to 20 minutes on my stove.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool slightly. I let it cool for about 5 minutes.
- Add in the beaten egg and mix everything together well.
- Set this aside.
Directions for Building and Cooking the Pasitiso:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a 9 x 4 loaf pan, place the pasta mixture evenly in the pan and gently flatten it.
- Add the meat mixture on top of the pasta evenly and gently flatten it.
- Pour the bechamel/cream sauce on top of the meat.
- Bake it in the preheated oven for about 55 minutes or until the top is browned. (Optional, for the last 2 to 3 minutes, I put the oven on broil to brown the top. I do this because I like it to be toasty on top. Watch it carefully here, broil will go from doing nothing to burnt if you take your eyes off what you are doing.)
- Let it cool for about 1/2 hour before cutting into it.
Adapted from: Opaa! Greek Cooking New York Style
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