George Calombaris' Pasticcio (AKA Greek Lasagna)

Ohhh pasticcio... This recipe gives me so many warm and fuzzies. My mum always used to make it for me when I was younger for special occasions like my birthday and Easter so I associate it with fun times and getting presents and all that good stuff. The one my mum made came from the old faithful Margaret Fulton Cookbook circa late sixties/early seventies... I'm not sure what my Italian mum was doing making Greek recipes written by an Australian cookbook guru but anyway... it must have been en-vogue when the book was written and I'm not complaining because it's delicious.

Mum's pasticcio was put together 'lasagna-style' with layers of curly-edge lasagna sheets that would get all crispy and brown on the edges. She would layer the pasta sheets with the tomato and beef sauce and béchamel and then bake it, and it would usually take her a while to prepare.

My New Favourite Cookbook!
I like this recipe by George Calombaris because it still has all that wonderful flavour, but is done in more of a pasta bake style so is less time consuming (big plus for me!) The only downside is you don't get that crispy edge but its a small price to pay for having extra time to pour myself a glass of wine and binge-watch The Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce.

Also, I made a few small changes, I added a little bit of extra crushed tomatoes because I'm Italian and I like things saucy. I also added the fresh herbs for some extra flavour.

You will need...
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
500gr minced beef
200ml dry white wine
2 tins crushed tomatoes
1 cinnamon stick
500gr dry macaroni pasta
pinch salt
cracked black pepper
1 sprig parsley, chopped
1 sprig basil, chopped

1 litre full cream milk
2 bay leaves
60gr unsalted butter
60gr plain flour
100gr feta, crumbled (I used Greek-style)
1 cup grated parmesan
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch salt
cracked black pepper

1. Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a large frypan. Add the onion and garlic and sweat until onion becomes translucent. Add the beef and cook until browned, breaking up any clumps that form. Pour in the white wine and cook on medium-low until reduced to a glaze. Add the crushed tomatoes, seasoning and cinnamon. Bring to the boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Add the pasta and cook to al-dente.
3. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius (or 180 fan-forced).
4. Make the béchamel by heating the milk on the stovetop with the bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, then remove and set aside to steep for 10 minutes. Melt the butter in a saucepan on the stove over a low heat. Slowly add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon to make a thick paste.
Cook for 2-3 minutes, then slowly start adding the milk as you stir quickly (use a whisk to beat out any lumps that form). Once all milk has been added, bring to the boil, then reduce to low and simmer, stirring continuously until thickened. Add cheeses, stir to combine, then taste before seasoning. Add cayenne pepper and stir through.
5. To assemble, add the pasta and chopped herbs to the meat sauce. Stir through (give a quick taste and adjust seasoning if necessary). Pour pasta into a large baking dish, then drizzle the béchamel over the pasta, using the back of a clean spoon to evenly spread the sauce over the top. Bake in a hot oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 6 generous serves.


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