I’m not sure what prompted me to run a recipe for pastitsio, the Greek baked pasta dish, in our USA Weekend column a couple of months ago. Maybe I was looking for an alternative to lasagna. Maybe I was drawn to the dish’s warm spices, but since then I’ve gotten scores of e-mails from readers looking for the recipe. Finally, here it is on our site along with a video and tips for making it.
Although lasagna will always be part of my repertoire, pastitisio has certainly broadened and enlivened my list of fun, make-ahead budget-friendly party dishes. Sharon, who spent a semester in Greece her junior year, tells me this version tastes exactly like the pastitsio she sampled when she was there.
I love the warm-spiced sauce which you can make with either lamb or ground beef. Some have questioned the cinnamon amount in the sauce. Yes, we mean 4 teaspoons–it’s not a mistake! If that seems too spicy for you, start with 2 teaspoons and increase to taste, knowing the cinnamon will calm as the sauce simmers. I also love the white sauce made light with a mix of evaporated milk and and broth and made full- flavored with Parmesan cheese and garlic.
Next time your mind knee-jerks to lasagna, consider pastitsio. Served with a Greek salad–lettuce, tomatoes, feta, red onion, briny olives, and couple big pinches of dried oregano–you’ve got a great meal with broad appeal with plenty of leftovers that refrigerate and freeze well.