Greek Pastitisio (Baked Pasta with Ground Beef)

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Greek Pastitsio (Baked Pasta with Ground Beef)

No need to start panicking, this might sound like it’s exotic and complicated but actually, it’s just a glorified version of Mac ‘n cheese. I promise. The only difference is that it’s infused with all the glorious flavours of Greece. Oregano, garlic, lemon and mint are all added to the mince (ground beef) mixture to ensure a end result packed full of deliciousness.

Pastitsio is a Greek or Middle Eastern dish which is generally made with Bucatini (a thick, tubular type of spaghetti) but Penne is often used when Bucatini is not available. In Cyprus, Pastitsio is called Macaronia tou Fournou which literally means “Macaroni baked in the oven” and is apparently quite a popular dish around Easter time. And according to my old faithful friend, Wikipedia, Pastitsio originates from Italy (no surprise there) and is a variation of the Italian Pasticcio which is baked pasta with ragù.

As you all know, it does not take a lot of convincing for me to fall deeply in love with a pasta dish and this one is no different. It’s quite refreshing to combine flavours from Greece with a dish I would normally load with Italian flavours and I was very happy that my entire family adored it. Obviously the herbs and spices are optional extra’s but it really makes all the difference. The mint is absolutely delicious with the ground beef and just adds a subtle sweetness. I used minced beef for my version but lamb, veal or pork are all suitable substitutions.

Greek Pastitsio (Baked Pasta with Ground Beef)

Serves 8-12 (perfect for big family gatherings)

  • 1kg beef mince (ground beef)
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 small tin tomato paste (2tbsn)
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock (+- 350ml)
  • 1tsp dried mint
  • 1tbsn dried oregano
  • 1tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1tsp ground cloves
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 2tsp sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste

For the Béchamel/Mornay sauce  (white sauce)

  • 75g butter
  • 40g flour
  • 650ml milk, heated
  • 1tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1 cup mature cheddar, grated (optional)
  • salt & black pepper to taste
  • 1kg penne pasta, cooked
  • oil for frying
  1. Start by making the meat sauce. In a large pot, fry the minced beef until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, fry the onions, carrots, celery and garlic until soft and fragrant. Add the bay leaves. Add the minced beef back into the pot and add the tomatoes, tomato paste, beef stock, herbs and sugar. Allow to come to simmering point and turn the heat down.
  3. Place the lid on the pot and allow to simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 180°c and grease an oven proof dish (make sure it’s big enough).
  5. To make the bechamel, gently melt the butter in a saucepan ensuring it doesn’t change colour. Stir in the flour until a glossy paste is formed.
  6. Slowly pour in the warm milk. Only pour in a few tablespoons at a time and make sure that it’s well incorporated before adding again. When half of the milk has been incorporated, switch to a balloon whisk and add larger amount of the milk whilst whisking. The sauce should be thick and smooth. (This tip I saw on an old episode of Delia)
  7. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the spices and cheese. Season to taste. At this point, also check the seasoning of the meat sauce and adjust.
  8. To assemble the Pastitsio, combine the cooked pasta with just over half of the Béchamel sauce.
  9. Carefully transfer half of the pasta to your prepared oven dish.
  10. Next, pour over all of the meat sauce and smooth out. Follow with the rest of the pasta and finally the remaining of the Béchamel sauce.
  11. Place the assembled Pastitsio into the pre-heated oven and allow to bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.
  12. Remove the Pastitsio from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving with a mixed salad and crusty bread.
Simply Delicious Recipe Ebook
Alida Ryder
Alida Ryder
Being a general food freak has proven to be quite helpful in this career I've found myself in. Author of two cookbooks, photographer, food stylist. Mom to twins. Ex make-up and hair artist obsessed with beautiful clothes and spaces. I love a good G&T and I've been known to spend too much money on shoes.
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  • gloeiwurmpie

    I can’t wait to try this! I hope it freezes as good as lasagna as my husband would love this in his lunchbox everyday!

    • Kathleen

      This Pastitisio was very good, I did make some adjustments and only used 8 oz of pasta, becauce we can’t eat all in even 4 sittings and when you let noodles sit over night they do absorb some of the liquid, the only thing that I would have like to see was that the topping would be higher as I usually get at our favoriet Greek Resturants…….I also didn’t have mint so I subsituted a touch of dry Rosemary and it was wonderful……..thanks so much for giving me a nice change for dinner.

  • http://www.mandymortimer.com/ MandyM

    I always add mint to my keftethes (meatballs) and cause of that also to burger patties, but have never thought to put it in pastitsio. My mom always made it with sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves, but next time I make pastitsio I think I’ll try the added addition of mint. Sounds great!

    • http://www.simply-delicious-food.com Ally_R

      MandyM, I like adding just a touch of mint to anything with ground Lamb. I find it just improves the over-all flavour, unfortunately my husband doesn’t like mint all that much so I can’t use it too often.

  • Jovana

    If you can believe it, they don’t sell cheddar cheese here.
    This looks delicious though – something that my new boyfriend would like. Do you think I could use feta in the cheese sauce instead?

  • Gabi

    Thanks, great. Even my boys loved it. The cumin etc gives a lovely flavor to the mince.

    • http://www.simply-delicious-food.com Ally_R

      Gabi, so glad you and your boys liked it. Spices give incredible flavour to food, I just love it! :)

  • Makeda

    Hi, great recipe, I made this for a B’Day party last night, we all loved it. I chose this recipe because i was curious to see the how the cumin flavored this dish. To me it add a very interesting flavor, it builds on the on the depth of the dish. The only changes I made were to substitute 1/2 cup gouda for cheddar cheese. I also used 1 cup of mozzarella cheese to sprinkle on top.
    This is definitely a recipe which will be made over and over again in my house.

    • http://www.simply-delicious-food.com Ally_R

      I’m so glad you liked it Makeda! I love cumin exactly for that reason, it adds so much depth of flavour to the food. And I love that you made substitutions…that’s what cooking is all about. Taking an idea that you like and making it into something that you love! :)

  • http://www.thelovebitesblog.com Caylee

    Y-U-M.

  • Maia

    I’m looking forward to making this, but am wondering about something: you mention lemon in the description, but there is no lemon in the recipe! Did you omit it by accident? Thanks.

  • http://www.fatburningfurnace.com/blog/ Lisa @ FatBurningFurnace

    This has quickly become a favorite in my house!! We have made it a few times and everyone including the kids adores it. There is never any leftovers no matter how much I make! That never happens, we always have leftovers, but not when I make this.

  • Kim

    This recipe does sound divine and I’m going to try it tonight. Just a question though – I note that in a lot of traditional pastitsio recipes eggs are used. Is there a reason why you didn’t use them? One more thing – can fresh mint be used instead of dried mint?

    • http://www.simply-delicious-food.com Ally_R

      Kim, no reason for the omission of eggs, just didn’t feel like using them. ANd fresh mint can be used instead of dried but dried has a muskier flavour where as fresh as a sharper flavour.

  • Pam L

    November 7, 2012 @ 9:33 PM
    Made this recipe today for my husband and me. Wow! I have enough Greek Pastitsio for a month — which is totally fabulous because it was a huge hit in our house. One small problem I had was the expression of amounts of ingredients for the Bechamel/Mornay sauce. Luckily there are conversion charts to be found everywhere on Google to help out with that. Also, I read the oven temp incorrectly and set it for 180 degrees (however, converted to Fahrenheit, that makes it 356 degrees). My bad. But I figured it out and this is a real keeper!!! Thanks for the great recipe ;o)

    • http://www.simply-delicious-food.com Alida Ryder

      Hi Pam.
      I’m so glad you liked it! Unfortunately, as I’m based in South Africa, all my measurements are on the metric scale as this is how I cook. :) In my new book I’ve included conversion charts as I know so many of my readers are based in the US. I will actually make a page at the top here as well with conversions to make things easier. :)

      • Pam L

        Hi Ally,
        I felt it was my issue to figure out the conversions — but that is so sweet of you to think of your readers ;o) I’m hoping all of your recipes are this delicious!!! Thanks so much for sharing them ;o)

  • Julie

    How big are the cans of tomatoes? 15 or 28 oz?

    • http://simply-delicious-food.com/ Alida Ryder

      Julie, the cans I use are 400g, I’m not sure how much that is in oz.

  • Julie

    It was very good, I will make or again! My family loved it with the exception of the cloves, I will only add a quarter teaspoon next time I found it to be overpowering all the other spices. I made it in two casserole dishes and am putting one in the freezer! Thanks for the recipie!

  • Jackie

    Made this yesterday…awesome!! Only change I made to the recipe was to use 1lb. ground turkey and 1lb. ground sweet Italian sausage instead of ground beef. It was so good. Thank you for sharing!

  • Ingrid

    My mother used to make the Italian version of this dish which you mention above. She omitted the spices except the nutmeg, added an egg to the Bechamel sauce, and substituted Parmesan cheese for the cheddar. One of my all-time favourites!

  • Peggy

    Wow…I’m shocked no Greeks have responded to this yet. I am Greek. I’ve NEVER seen any Greek use cheddar in this recipe or this type of pasta for that matter.

    • http://simply-delicious-food.com/ Alida Ryder

      Peggy, you could of course use any cheese you please, I just prefer the flavour of cheddar in a cheese sauce.

    • saschasolange .

      I’m sure this is delicious, though it’s vastly different from most Pasticcio recipes I’ve seen or tasted. Of course I think my mom’s was the best ( can’t find it, of course). I know that she used Kefalotori or parmesan, and added beaten egg whites to the bechemel. spices were limited to sale, pepper, cinnamon and oregano – no celery or carrots, and the sauce was not heavy on tomato flavor; the meat flavor was accentuated. I believe she added egg whites and grated cheese to the hot cooked pasta as well, before any assembly.

  • Sarah

    looks so yummy, love the very detail pictures, will give it a try on this weekends,thanks for sharing! I had featured u in the post of Top 7 Beef Based Recipes for Mother’s Day on AllFreshRecipes, expect ur newly dishes!

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