Greek lamb and mushroom pastitsio - best I've ever had


This is a lovely fulfilling comfort food. I lightened the original up with mushrooms, but with the amount of cheese and white sauce it's still quite heavy duty. You can of course make it with beef which makes it a bit lighter, but I think lamb is tastier and if you are looking for a low-calorie option I think this is a bit of a non-starter anyway.

Greek lamb and mushroom pastitsio
Look how beautifully aligned my pasta tubes are.
I hope the Pastitsio-police are not going to get me for adding mushroom, I'm not sure how big a crime it is. I always think as long as the end result is good we should not be too holy about these things. And I am not sure about the pasta types either, you need a bloody Ph.D. to figure those out.

The only time I have had pastitsio prepared by someone other than myself was on our honeymoon on the wonderful island of Santorini. It was our last day, we were walking around the shops in Fira buying some last minute souvenirs. I bought some tablecloths, a pinny :) and the inevitable scarf, I don't think I've ever been anywhere where I didn't buy a scarf.

And of course I bought some olives, spice mixes, caper leaves and other local delicacies.

We took our last pictures of the amazing caldera and were surprised by a freak rain shower. We escaped the rain to the first restaurant that came our way. It was empty which probably wasn't a good sign.

We ordered some kind of a Greek salad to share for starters, husband ordered lamb chops and I got a tasting platter with pastitsio, dolmades and stuffed tomato. The food was pretty bad to be honest, most of the food we had during our holiday was fantastic, but the starter salad was just weird, half dead salad leaves, tasteless mushy cheese on top covered by anchovies. Husbands chops were overcooked and my plate was nothing to write home about. The pastitsio was nice although it didn't blow my mind and it was almost cold, which technically I think is allowed, but I just would have preferred it hot.
Greek anjovy and cheese salad in Santorini
Our sad starter salad
It didn't get much better.

So, the best ever pastitsio by far I have had is by my own fair hand.

Table for two - Greek lamb pastitsio

Greek lamb mushroom pastitsio (serves 4-6 people)

Pastitsio meat sauce

I yellow onion
400g ground lamb (or beef, or you can do half and half)
3 garlic cloves
250g mushrooms
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cumin
2 tbsp greek herb mix
2 tbsp fresh chopped oregano (or 2 tsp dried)
2 tbsp fresh chopped mint (or 2 tsp dried)
Black pepper
1/2 cup of red wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 can of tomatoes

Bechamel sauce

40g butter
2 tbsp plain flour
2 cups of milk
1/2 cup of grated parmesan
1 egg

300g of tubular long pasta like long ziti, mezzani or bucatini

1 cup grated cheddar

1. To prepare the meat sauce, chop the onion and mushroom and mince the garlic. Start frying the meat and onion in a frying pan, you don't need to add oil. lamb has enough fat in itself. When meat is browned add minced garlic and chopped mushroom, herbs - I make my own mix, but feel free to use another if you have, spices, salt and pepper. Fry for another couple of minutes on medium-high heat. Add the red wine and let cook for a few minutes, add the tomato paste and tinned tomatoes and leave to simmer for half an hour on low heat.

2. To make the Bechamel sauce melt the butter in a non-stick sauce pan, and the flour and stir until it forms a smooth paste. Cook for 2 minutes, add the milk whisking and heat until simmering, let simmer for a few minutes until it starts to thicken. Add the grated parmesan. Let cool a little and add the whisked egg.

3. Cook the pasta, but leave it a bit under, so cook it a couple of minutes less than the pack instructins. Rinse and add a drizzle of olive oil to keep it from sticking.

4. To assemble grease a large casserole dish with butter. Place the pasta in the bottom of the dish, try to align the strands of pasta so that they run straight from one end of the dish to the other. Add the meat sauce on top of the pasta. Pour the béchamel sauce on top to cover the dish and sprinkle the grated cheddar on top.

5. Bake in the 200C oven for 30-40 minutes or until the top is nice and brown.

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