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Blog Archive Entry


My Big Fat Greek Post

During the month of January, A Taste of the Mediterranean was all about the ubiquitous French tart. Crispy, buttery, but not always sweet; the challenge was to create your spin, either sweet or savory, on this classic French pastry. The winner for January is Maggie from Dog Hill Kitchen with her Vegan Orange Cream Tarts with Almond Crusts! Congrats Maggie! You could check out her entry and all the other tart entries here.

This month we’re hopping from France over to the Greek islands with Peter from Kalofagas. For those (very few) who don’t know who Peter is, well, he’s a gifted Greek blogger who lives in Canada and who, I’m convinced, knows everything there is to know about Greek food. He’s the host this month for the A Taste of the Mediterranean contest and he’s calling on bloggers to make their own twists on the classic Greek pastitsio. To kick off the contest I decided to make my variation of this Greek lasagna using as many flavors from around the Mediterranean as I could.

mise en place

The classic recipe for pastitsio calls for meat sauce and bechamel spread between layers pasta. For my variation I incorporated Fontina cheese from Italy, red wine from France and harissa paste from Northern Africa, mainly because I had those ingredients laying around, but also because I enjoy mixing complimentary flavors from different regions of the Mediterranean.

this is where the flavor starts

The first thing I did was get my meat sauce going. It’s extremely easy, but takes time for the flavors to develop and turn into a proper meat sauce. The sauce starts with the classic mirapoux (i.e. the trinity) of carrots, celery and onions. The key is to cook them over medium heat so that they become soft, but it is important they don’t caramelize.

food therapy

I decided to go into full-on Greek mode for this recipe. This means I took no short cuts and made sure to multiply the recipe by three. I then stored two pans of the pastitsio in the freezer ready to go for those days when the bachelor in me wants food to magically appear on the table without chopping an onion or stirring a pot.

a 30s dunk is all it needs

Once you’re done rolling out the dough, all the pasta needs is a quick bath in boiling water. You don’t want to cook it all the way though… this is just to give it a head start. Once the pasta boils for 1-2 minutes, shock it in an ice bath to immediately stop the cooking process. The pasta will then finish cooking with the rest of the ingredients in the oven.

my idea of being healthy: meat+greens

Once the meat sauce is done cooking, you’ll be happy. Your entire kitchen will acquire the aroma of the meat sauce and you’ll find yourself in the tasting stage, wondering if there is anything missing. Perhaps a little more salt and pepper might be good? Sometimes that helps, but often the addition of anything fresh and green will strike a balance with the rich flavors of the sauce. I used frozen petite peas for this because they’re green, but also because they have a creamy bite to them that I enjoy.

flavor development at its peak

The layering is up to you and mostly depends on the ingredients you use and your own personal preferences. I always start with a thin layer of bechamel on a buttered pan because that helps prevent sticking. From there I start by layering pasta, more bechamel, meat, cheese, ham, even more bechamel and then pasta again. I do this until I reach the very top, which I finish off with a little more bechamel, a sprinkling of fontina cheese and a thin layer of parmigiano reggianno on the very top to develop a nice crust in the oven.

dinner

This was my humble recreation of Greek pastitsio done alla Mediterranean. It was my dinner last night, tonight and it will probably be my dinner for a few more nights this week. I can’t wait to see other variations of this dish for A Taste of the Mediterranean! Remember that the winning pastitsio post will win a $50 gift certificate to iGourmet!

Pastitsio

yields one 9×13 pan

Components

  • 4 cups bechamel
  • 1 1/3 lbs ragú
  • 1/2 lbs of sliced ham
  • 1 1/2 cups fontina cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup parmesan for top layer
  • lasagna sheets, fresh or dry

Putting them all together

  1. Prepare all the components to the pastitsio and set aside for assembly.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and butter a 9×13 baking pan.
  3. Begin by adding a thin layer of bechamel to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Follow with a layer of pasta, a layer of bechamel, a layer of meat mixture, a layer of ham, and a sprinkling of fontina.
  5. Repeat until you reach the top of the pan (usually 2-3 layers of meat).
  6. Top the final layer of pasta with a final thin layer of bechamel, a thin layer of fontina and finish off with parmesan cheese.
  7. Bake covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for the last 15 (broil for a couple minutes at the end if you want an extra crispy crust).

note: You can make your own pasta dough or use the dry lasagna sheets available at your local supermarket.

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Bechamel

approx 4 cups

Components

  • 50 g butter
  • 50 g flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • salt, to taste
  • nutmeg, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. In a medium sauce pan, melt butter.
  2. Cook flour in butter until mixture becomes pasty and begins to stick to the pan. Approximately 3-4 minutes.
  3. Slowly add room temperature milk while whisking the mixture so that you end up with a smooth sauce.
  4. Season with salt and ground nutmeg.

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Basic Ragu

for 1 9×13 pan of pastitsio

Components

  • 1 1/3 lbs ground beef, (90/10)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1-2 celery stalks
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 glass wine, red
  • 3/4 cup stock, preferably beef
  • 1 tsp harissa 
  • 1/4 tomato paste
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Sweat the onion, carrot and celery by cooking in olive oil over medium heat until they become translucent (approx 8-10 minutes).
  2. Move the softened vegetables to the side of the pot and raise the heat to high. Once the vegetables begin to sizzle, add the ground beef.
  3. Deglaze the pan after a few minutes with the red wine and stock. Stir in the remainder of the ingredients (except the frozen peas) and cook over low heat for a couple of hours (stirring every 30 minutes).
  4. Remove from heat, mix in frozen peas and set aside until ready to use.

note: This can be done the night before and refrigerated until ready to use. 

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Posted in entrees, Greek, recipe, savory by Antonio Tahhan on February 9th, 2009. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


22 Responses to “My Big Fat Greek Post”

Peter G Says:

I love this pastitso! What a fanatstic twist Antonio…I def need to get myself in on this event!

Meeta Says:

absolutely gorgeous Tony! Pastitso is a time consuming dish in itself so kudos to you for making the pasta at home too!

Peter Says:

Tony, I too enjoyed my Pastitsio with a glass of fine red wine…a delight!

Your creativity with the Pastitsio concept is what this event’s all about…vibrant, fun, delicious and new ideas…love to have a slab of your pastitsio!

Giff Says:

just saw this through Peter’s tweet, and looking forward to this event. Great dish.

Laurie Constantino Says:

A great theme for your very fun Greek event! And you’ve started it off just right! I’ve got my pastitsio thinking cap on and will try and come up with something worthy of your lovely website.

heidi leon Says:

oh, oh, I’m hungry!!!
those pictures are so awesome :-)

Maggie Says:

I’m thrilled to have won the tart challenge! I’ll have to get my Greek father in law to part with his pastitsio recipe. It’s not something I’ve made before. Your’s looks wonderful and I really like the idea of having the spicy harissa in it.

Rita Says:

Tony, I am so happy I found your blog, it is beautiful, I love how you display the ingredients first. I never made pastisio before, looks great.

Kevin Says:

Nice looking pastitsio!

Hannah Says:

Aw, I had planned on making a tart for this event, but totally lost track of time and missed the deadline. Oh well, your twist on pastitsio certainly looks interesting… I wonder if I can get my act together and submit something for this new theme!

Hélène Says:

Beautiful, this is a perfect meal for a week-end with lot’s of wine.

kalofagas.ca » Blog Archive » Pragmatic Pastitsio and a Food Event Says:

[...] are many approaches you can take to Pastitsio. Tony has just offered up his take here. I too have posted a Pastitsio recipe and you have have a peek at my version [...]

maria Says:

lovely seeing you make your own pastry
i did too, for my take on the classic greek pastitsio
check it out here: http://organicallycooked.blogspot.com/2009/02/st-valentines-day-pastitsio.html

Carrrie Oliver Says:

Why has it taken me this long to find this blog and how ever did you make peas and raw ground meat look so beautiful? I’ll find you on Twitter and plan to visit often and test out some of these delicious sounding recipes. Thanks!

Sam Sotiropoulos Says:

I don’t know what this is, but it sure ain’t Pastitsio. But you already know that, don’t you?

Bren Says:

Peter is great! no pun intended. good looking post! Hadn’t been by in a while, so glad I’m back! :)

JennDZ_The LeftoverQueen Says:

Yummy Tony, this looks great and your photos keep getting better and better! :) Nice job!

joey Says:

That’s one gorgeous pastitsio! Love Greek food so I know I will love seeing what pastitsio versions this round brings!

Medena Says:

Your recreation of the Pastitsio is great! Looks so delicious!

Jeanne Says:

Sounds like a great event – and your dish looks heavenly! It always astonishes my just how much of a difference it makes to a ragu to cook it slooooowly.

Nate Says:

Another beautifully done post. Bravo!

Núria Says:

Mmmmm que rico Tony! Siento llegar tan tarde… ultimamente no paso mucho tiempo en el ordenador, but bad weather is comming back and that will keep me inside the house ;D

A great interpretation of Pastitsio and the last picture is sooooo cool!


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