This is a bit like lasagne but easier to make and you can have it all done in advance, ready to throw in the oven when your guests arrive.
Pastitsio (beef and macaroni pie with cinnamon, red wine and cheese) – generously serves 8-10
- 500g pasta tubes (we used big macaroni or rigatoni would be good)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 50g finely grated Parmesan
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- 10g fresh white breadcrumbs
FOR THE WHITE SAUCE:
- 115g butter
- 115g plain flour
- 1.2 litres full-cream milk
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
FOR THE MEAT SAUCE
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
- 1 kg lean minced beef
- 200ml red wine
- 400g chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 10cm piece cinnamon stick
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped oregano
- 3 fresh bay leaves
For the meat sauce, heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion, garlic, and celery, and fry until starting to brown. Add the mince and fry over a high heat for about 4 minutes, breaking up the lumps. Add the red wine, tomatoes, tomato purée, cinnamon stick, ground cloves, dried and fresh oregano, bay leaves, 100ml water, 1½ tsp salt and some black pepper, and simmer for about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened but is still nice and moist. Throw away the cinnamon stick and bay leaves.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add plenty of salt. Cook the pasta for a minute less than it says on the pack (as it will cook a bit more in the oven). Drain well, transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool a little.
For the white sauce, melt the butter in a non-stick saucepan, add the flour and cook, stirring, over a medium heat, for 1 minute. Gradually beat in the milk, then bring to the boil, stirring, lower the heat and leave to simmer for 5-7 minute, stirring occasionally. Season with nutmeg and some salt and pepper.
Stir 250ml (about one-fifth) of the white sauce into the warm pasta with the beaten eggs and half the grated cheese. Keep the rest of the sauce warm over a low heat, stirring now and then and adding a bit more milk if it gets too thick.
Use the melted butter to grease a large, ovenproof dish (about 23 x 33 cm across and 7 cm deep) or baking tray. Spread one-third of the pasta over the base of the dish and cover with half the meat sauce. Add another third of the pasta, then the rest of the meat sauce, then cover with a final layer of pasta. Spoon the rest of the white sauce over. Mix the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle this over the top.
The dish is now ready for the oven. When you’re ready, bake it in a preheated oven at 180ºC/Gas Mark 4 for 40 minutes or until bubbling hot and nicely browned.
Serve with some salad.
Drink with: a glass of good Bordeaux but from a warmer vintage, like the atypical 2003. One of our guests kindly brought an ’03 Domaine de Chevalier.
(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)