Monday, 18 June 2012

Pastitsio (or Beef Mac & Cheese)

Thinking back to our lovely summer holiday last year to the Greek Island of Kephalonia bought back memories of the great food to be had there, stifado, kleftico, baklava and so on.  So I rootled through my Rick Stein's Mediterranean Escapes cook book and found a hearty and naughty Greek dish to try, Pastitsio, which looks just a minced beef macaroni cheese, but tastes 10 times better with quite complex herbs and spices and gutsy red wine thrown into the mix.

Serves 8

500g Rigatoni or large tube pasta, dried
2 eggs, beaten
50g Parmesan grated or Greek Kefalotiri
10g fresh breadcrumbs

For white sauce
115g butter
115g plain flour
1.2 ltr milk - recipe called for full cream, I used semi skimmed
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg.

For meat sauce
4 tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1kg minced beef, lean
200ml red wine
400g chopped tomatoes
2 tbs tomato puree
1 cinnamon stick
1/4tsp ground cloves - I used Allspice instead
1 tbs dried oregano
2 tbs fresh oregano, chopped - I did not have fresh, but it probably would have lifted the dish slightly.
3 bay leaves

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan, add garlic, celery & onion and fry until turning golden.  Add beef and fry over high heat until browned.  Add the red wine, tomatoes, puree, cinnamon, cloves, oregano, bay leaves along with 100ml water and S&P.  Simmer for 30-40 minutes stirring occasionally.  Sauce should thicken slightly.  Remove from heat and discard the cinnamon and bay leaves.

Cook in boiling water the pasta, leaving it slightly al dente, drain and cool slightly.

For the white sauce, melt the butter in a pan and the flour and stir over heat for a minute, with a balloon whisk, beat in the milk and bring to the boil, if you have lumps keep whisking.  Season with nutmeg and S&P.

Preheat oven to 180oc.  Stir 250ml of the white sauce into the pasta with the beaten eggs and half the cheese.  In a large shallow ovenproof dish spread one third of the pasts and cover with half the meat sauce.  Add another third of pasta and the rest of the meat, finish with the final third of pasta and pour over the remaining white sauce. Sprinkling the top with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs.  Bake in oven for 40 minutes.

Serve with a green salad and plenty of gutsy red wine.

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