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GREEK PASTITSIO (MACARONI WITH MEAT SAUCE & BECHAMEL)

Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 350 gr #2 macaroni for pastitsio

For the Meat sauce

  • 800 gr ground chuck beef
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 whole pimentos
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 400 gr tomatoes, chopped
  • 500 gr concentrated tomato juice
  • 2 cubes of bio chicken stock (optional)
  • 1 pinch of sugar
  • salt
  • pepper

For the Bechamel sauce

  • 80 gr all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 80 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lt fresh full fat milk, room temperature
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 50 gr cheese (kefalotiri, graviera), grated + 150gr. for sprinkling
  • salt
  • pepper

Instructions

For the Meat sauce

  • Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan.
  • Add ground beef and cook over medium-high heat, until pink color disappears, about 6 -7minutes.
  • Use a whisk so as to break any big chunks of ground beef.
  • Add onion and cook until it is translucent, about 5 minutes more.
  • Add whole pimentos and cinnamon sticks, cooking for 3 more minutes.
  • Add garlic, stirring constantly with a spatula for 2 minutes. Do not overcook garlic, because it will become bitter!
  • Season with a bit of salt trying to “build” taste.
  • When ground beef has a nice light brown color, add tomato paste and stir again.
  • Add wine and cook until it evaporates.
  • Add chopped tomatoes and juice, bay leaves, chicken stock, sugar and a pinch of salt.
  • Cover and simmer meat sauce for about 40-45 minutes, until most liquid is absorbed.
  • Uncover, taste and season with ground pepper and salt, if needed, according to your taste.
  • Set aside.

For the Macaroni

  • While cooking meat sauce, boil macaroni in salted water, according to packet directions until al dente (about 2 minutes less).
  • Strain and toss macaroni with 2tbsp. of olive oil, so as they don’t stick together.
  • Set aside for 5 minutes.

For the Bechamel sauce

  • Pour olive oil in a saucepan over low heat.
  • Add flour and whisk continuously to make a smooth paste or roux.
  • Allow mixture to cook for a couple of minutes, but do not allow it to brown.
  • Add milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously.
  • Simmer over low heat till the sauce thickens, for about 5-10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Taste.
  • Add the 50gr. of cheese, stirring constantly, until smooth. Taste again.

Assembly

  • Toss macaroni and meat sauce in a big bowl.
  • Brush the bottom and sides of a 28x38cm pan with a film of olive oil.
  • Sprinkle with some cheese.
  • Layer the pan with the mixture of the bowl, trying somewhat to be flat, but don’t press down hard!
  • Sprinkle again with some cheese.
  • Preheat oven to 175 Celsius degree/fan mode.
  • Prepare the béchamel sauce.
  • Pour béchamel over macaroni evenly. Macaroni should be fully covered.
  • Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top has a nice golden color.
  • Remove from the oven.
  • Let it rest for about an hour before you cut in pieces.
  • Serve at room temperature.
  • Enjoy!