How To Make Greek Lasagna Casserole
How to Make Greek Lasagna Casserole
Rediscovering an old family favorite
To me, the ultimate in comfort food is a warm savory casserole. Recently I was looking through some old favorites (recipes) of my moms and I came across one for Greek Lasagna, also known as pastitsio.
My mother acquired this wonderful recipe thanks to me and my allergies to biting insects. When I was eleven years old I was out playing with a group of kids in the neighborhood. I received hundreds of mosquito bites on my legs and had to go to the emergency room that evening.
The next day a concerned neighbor brought this dish over. I think she may have thought my condition was a little more severe.
My family had never had "Greek" lasagna before. We were used to our traditional Italian lasagna. The the unique flavor of the cinnamon and allspice was unexpected, but wildly delicious. It soon became a family favorite. Sadly I lost the recipe in piles of my mother's cook books and files. It wasn't until my daughter pulled a purple note card from the back of a recipe box. (It never stops to amaze me how 3 year-old is magically drawn into the gravitational pull of the color purple.)
The purple note card was my neighbors original that my mom must have recopied on her own plain white note cards. It brought me back to this wonderful savory dish. It is well worth the prep time to make. And once you make it a couple of times you don't really need the recipe.
Ingredients for Greek Lasagna
- 1 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 to 1 1/2 lbs Lean ground beef, May substitute ground turkey
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 can tomato sauce
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp all spice
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 cup fresh parmigiana or romano cheese
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 LB elbow pasta
Instructions for meat sauce
- Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent. Put aside in bowl.
- Brown the meat until it gets a nice and crispy around the edges, but not burnt. Don't be afraid to really brown it because it only bakes in the oven for 35 minutes. Don't forget to drain the grease!
- Turn burner down low and add your onions and garlic and cinnamon, oregano and allspice. Stir to incorporate all the spices evenly.
- Add tomato sauce. Some recipes for Greek Lasagna call for tomato paste, but I find some pastes can make the meat sauce too sour. It's easier for me to use the sauce.
- Add the wine and stir for 2-3 minutes. Sauce will thicken nicely. Set aside until pasta is cooked
- Cook pasta, drain and put in bowl to mix with bechamel sauce.
I love Bechamel sauce. It's so creamy and scrumptious and easy to make. Sometimes, if my little ones are particularly good I will make a batch and poor it over some rice or pasta. They eat so well those evenings.
It is truly one of the easiest sauces to make once you get the knack. You can only mess this up if you are impatient because it must be cooked on low heat. You only bring to a boil when it's time to thicken the sauce.
There are many versions of this simple white sauce. the Italian version calls for nutmeg. I do not add this to my bechamel because it tastes too similar to Alfredo sauce which to me are two entirely different sauces. My mouth expects Italian when I add nutmeg and Greek Lasagna is completely different to me.
Quick and Easy Bechamel Sauce
- In a small saucepan simmer milk and Bayleaf on a low.
- Make a roux in a medium sauce pan on gentle heat. you do this my melting butter slowly until foamy. careful not to burn. Slowly add flour to butter whisking quickly for 2 minutes to until flour is well incorporated with the butter. This will avoid that floury taste.
- Remove Bayleaf and discard.
- Add milk and cream to roux still whisking to remove all lumps.
- Add salt and white pepper.
- Slowly bring to boil and keep whisking until sauce begins to thicken.
- Take off heat. (Very important!)
- Whisk in 1 cup of Romano cheese.
Ingredients for Bechamel Sauce
- 5 tablespoons of butter
- 1/2 cup of white flour
- 3 cups of whole milk
- 3 cups of heavy cream
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 1/2 cup of Romano cheese
- 3 large eggs
Assembly of Greek Lasagna: Step 1
Once bechamel is finished add 2 cups to the pasta and stir well. Make sure to coat noodles evenly.Spread out noodles in the casserole.
Assembly of Greek Lasagna: Step 2
The next step is to add the meat sauce evenly over pasta.
In between Steps 2 and 3 you have to beat your 3 large eggs that should be at room temperature. Temper the eggs by adding one cup of the warm Bechamel sauce and gently whisking. When it is blended well slowly whisk in the tempered egg sauce to the rest of the Bechamel in the pan. Do not heat.
If you do not temper the eggs the heat from the Bechamel sauce will cook the eggs.
Assembly of Greek Lasagna: Step 3
After tempering eggs and adding to remaining Bechamel sauce mix stir the mixture until smooth and creamy. Layer sauce over meat sauce and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of Romano cheese on top.
Bake for 35 minutes
Bake at 425 for 35 minutes and let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve with warm bread and a salad.
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© 2013 LA Elsen