Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pastitsio... Finally!

See that?  It's glory.  Pure glory.  Also very late glory.  You know how when you get sick for a week it feels like it takes 3 weeks to recover from the time you were sick?  That's what happened to us.  I woke up really sick the morning after making this amazing meal.  Then, after neglecting our blogging, we wanted to be able to commit to sticking with it a little better when we came back.  After another 3 or so weeks of that, we're still not feeling less busy, so I make no promises that consistent blogging will happen! But at least for today, we finally present Pastitsio! 

We wanted to do something big and special for our blog's birthday, so we decided to take on this super complicated dish.  {We are fearless farm animals.}  Pastitsio is kind of like greek lasagna, but instead of long ruffly noodles, cheese and sauce, you layer tubular noodles with different kinds of cheese and sauce.  And if we were going to spend all that time making this dish, we were going to make it with the best recipe, and the best ingredients.  After scouring the internet for days and days {ok maybe it was more like a few hours, but that's a long time, I'm a busy pig}, we found Peter Kalofagas' greek cooking blog and knew we came to the right place.   He does a great job explaining what Pastitsio is, and most importantly gave us a fantastic recipe.

If you are planning to make pastitsio, make sure to set aside several hours.  I also recommend gathering at 15 or so of your closest friends to help you eat it, because it makes a huge, and I mean really huge, amount of food.  Even if you could eat it all over a few days, unless you really want to gain 5 lbs in a week, I wouldn't recommend it {and that's coming from a pig, literally}.

Cornelius' Tip: It might be a good idea to buy one of those gigantic disposable roasting pans. This makes a large amount of food, plus, then you won't have to clean it!

Part 0: Prep

1. Here's your shopping list!
1 lb Bucatoni or elbow noodles

2.2 lb lean ground beef
3 med onions, diced

1/4 c olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 28 oz can crushed tomato
1/4 c dry white wine
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cinnamon + more to taste
salt and pepper

1 stick butter
1 c. flour
10 c. milk, warm
8 eggs, room temp, beaten
1 c vlahotyri cheese, grated (or grano padano)
1 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper

1/2 c Kefalotyri cheese, grated (or romano, but try to find the greek cheese)

2. Make sure to get all the chopped, grating, and measuring done before you get started.

Part 1: Pasta {aka the easy part}

1. Cook 1 lb of Bucatini or elbow noodles according to package, set aside.

Cornelius' note: If boiling water scares you, you should probably just look at the pictures and not attempt the rest of this...

Part 2: The Meat Sauce

Cornelius' tip: if you have a good meat sauce recipe that you like, you can always use that instead. Just add some cinnamon to make it taste Greek.

1.  Heat olive oil.  Saute onions, garlic, and bay leaves for 12-15 min, until they are translucent.

2.  Add ground beef, allspice, and cinnamon to the pan.  Turn up the heat and brown the meat.  (Strain off excess fat).

3.  Add tomato paste and wine and simmer until the wine is mostly absorbed.
Cornelius tip: We used real greek wine!

4.  Add crushed tomatoes and oregano and bring to a boil.  Simmer until the sauce is thickened.
Cornelius' note: This takes 15-20 minutes.

5.  Remove bay leaves.  Add salt, pepper, and extra cinnamon to taste.  Set aside.

Cornelius' tip: We also decided to add some extra cheese.  You can never go wrong with extra cheese.  Keep that in mind for all occasions.

Part 3: The Bechamel

Cornelius' tip: If you've never made bechamel you should know that this recipe moves quickly.  Measure out your ingredients so they are ready to go and have your tools handy!

1.  Melt butter in a large saucepan.  Add flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes, until the flour has turned light brown.

2.  Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly to incorporate.  You can use your wooden spoon to press out the lumps or a potato masher.  

3.  While still regularly stirring, bring the mixture to a boil.

4.  Simmer until the sauce is thick (it will coat the back of the wooden spoon).  

5.  Remove from heat and pour the beaten eggs into the pot in a steady stream.  Mix in the grated cheese and nutmeg.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  
Cornelius' tip: I know that when recipes say salt and pepper to taste sometimes we dont actually taste it we just sprinkle it in and call it good enough.  In this case, please taste it. You will probably want more salt than usual because its a really big batch of sauce.

Part 4: The Assembly

1.  Preheat oven to 375.

2.  Pour 1 ladle-full of bechamel into the meat sauce.  Stir.

3. Pour 3 ladles-full of bechamel into the pasta.  Stir.

4. Pour some bechamel into the bottom of your roasting pan to fully cover the surface.

5. Spread in half the pasta.

6. Pour all of the meat sauce on top.

7.  Spread the rest of the pasta on top.

8.  Pour in the rest of the bechamel.  Smooth it out to look pretty.

9.  Top with grated Kefalotyri cheese.

10.  Bake 45-60 minutes, until golden.

11.   Allow to rest 20-30 minutes before serving. 

Cornelius' tip: This freezes well!

The good thing about making this meal immediately before getting sick is that I had fantastic leftovers for the whole week.  The bad part is that I didn't take pictures of the inside of it until days later...  It looked much nicer the first time!


1 comment:

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