Do you ever have those nights where you're just really craving pasta? And beef? And cheese? It's kind of a nostalgic feeling, but you don't want something you've made time and again, and you don't want something out of a box. What do you do? Well, if you're like me you hit the Web - allrecipes.com to be exact - and you search out something new. (Allrecipes rarely lets me down!) I ran across this recipe for pastitsio, and it jumped out at me. Actually, the ingredients - chili powder, allspice and cinnamon - jumped out at me, and I knew I had to have it.
I love Greek food. Souvlaki with tzatziki sauce, baklava, moussaka - you name it and I'll eat it. I live in an area with a large Greek population, and they have definitely influenced our area restaurants. Their annual Greek Festival is a huge hit with the community, and why wouldn't it be? All that food! All that great music! I don't think I've ever made any Greek food at home, however, until I gave this recipe a shot. Pastitsio is very obviously Italian-influenced - it comes from the Italians' pasticcio - and it appears that pastitsio recipes vary upon what region of Greece you're in. But there is always pasta; there is always meat; and there is always a cheese layer, which in this case is a rich bechamel. And to make it authentically Greek there should be a sprinkling of cinnamon or nutmeg on top, and in this case it's cinnamon.
Pastitsio has such a warm, rich flavor, which honestly reminds me a little of Cincinnati Chili - probably because of the cinnamon. I don't know if there's a connection between the two recipes but it's something to look into. This is a family-friendly dish, and it's great for cold winter nights. Warm your belly up with some tomatoes, ground beef and cinnamon. You're going to be tired of turkey in a few days, anyway.
Adapted from Allrecipes
Makes about 6 servings
1 8-ounce package macaroni
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 pound Roma tomatoes
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1.5 cups milk
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a square, glass baking dish and set aside.
2. Cook macaroni until al dente. Drain, and in a large bowl combine macaroni, beaten egg, 1/4 cup cheese. Set aside.
3. Peel, seed and chop tomatoes and set aside.
4. In a large pan over medium heat, cook onions, garlic and beef until beef is evenly browned and onion is soft. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, vinegar, chili powder, allspice, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until sauce has thickened. Set aside.
5. In a medium saucepan over medium heat melt butter. Stir in flour and pepper and cook about two minutes. Add milk and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. 6. In a separate bowl combined about half the milk mixture with beaten egg. Return mixture to saucepan and stir in remaining 1/4 cup cheese.
7. Add half the macaroni to the prepared dish. Pour meat sauce over, then top with remainining pasta. Pour white sauce over top layer. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until white sauce is firm. Remove from oven and let cool about five minutes before serving.