Mediterranean cuisine is so different from here. The spices they use are completely different. The flavor profile is completely different. I feel like they use spices that normally wouldn’t work and yet everything packs a punch.
When most people think Mediterranean/Greek food, they think gyros, pasta, grape leaves, and what have you. There’s so much more to it. More than baklava, hummus, pita…I came across this recipe and it amazed me it was Greek. Then I saw the cinnamon and nutmeg.
Pastitio is made differently amoungst the Mediterranean countries, but the principle is the same. You have a meat based sauce and a cream based sauce with pasta and cheese. I sort of view it as a Greek version of lasagna but a hundred times better. It’s Greek comfort food at it’s finest, literally. So if you’re tired of normal lasagna and don’t feel like attempting vegetable versions, this is the dish for you.
It’s different. But in a good way. Great for pot lucks.
a box of ziti
For the meaty tomato sauce:
1 small onion, diced finely
2 cloves of garlic, diced finely
1 pound ground beef
15 oz can of tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
For the creamy cheese sauce:
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 tablespoon butter
2 eggs, beaten
3 oz. freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Put a pot of water on the stove to cook the macaroni and get it cooking according to the package directions.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat, then add the ground meat and chopped garlic & onion and sautee, stirring frequently, until the meat is browned and cooked and the onion is soft and translucent.
Stir in the tomato sauce, cinnamon, salt, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and stir and cook until the mixture is hot.
Drain the macaroni and stir it together with the meat sauce.
Spray a 9×9 square baking pan or several with cooking spray and spread the macaraoni & meat sauce flat in the pan, pressing down with a spoon to flatten and compress the mixture a bit.
In a saucepan, heat the milk and butter till hot and the butter is melted.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs till they are well beaten, then whisk in about half of the hot milk mixture.
Add the egg mixture in a slow stream back into the saucepan, whisking constantly with one hand while pouring with the other.
Reserve about 1/3 of the cheese, before adding the cheese and remaining nutmeg to the sauce and continue cooking and whisking for just a couple minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken.
Pour the cheese sauce over the meaty macaroni mixture, spreading with a spoon to cover the baking dish.
Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Bake at 325 for about 50 minutes.
Makes 8. Calories: 423, Carbohydrates: 46 grams, Sugar: 5 grams, Fiber: 2 grams, Protein: 25 grams.
This is absolutely amazing. The cinnamon and nutmeg changes the beef completely. It’s a whole new flavor profile that compliments both the tomato sauce and the béchamel. How is this possible? I have no clue but I couldn’t stop eating it.
Maybe I’ll change the way I make my spaghetti, add some cinnamon or something. I used to add chocolate to make the tomato sauce vibrant back in the day until Mumika caught me and yelled at me for it.
If you’re family is tired of the normal Italian pastas, maybe it’s time to start looking into the Greek’s version. What’s great about this recipe is that it’s a lot like your Italian grandmother’s lasagna where all you remember is her slaving over that damn stove making sure all the components are meshing and simmering to perfection. Then years later you find out it didn’t take her all day. In reality, she threw all that into a slow cooker and called it a day, but it was her little secret. This pastitio gives off those exact vibes. It looks like it took forever to make, but it didn’t.
So make this Pastitio for the family and make them think it took you all day. There will be a lot of, “No, stay seated. You put so much effort into making this amazing meal. I’ll take care of the dishes.” Because after all, that’s how your Italian grandma got out of doing anything.