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Pastitsio

Pastitsio (pronounced Pahs-tee-cho) is a Mediterranean baked pasta dish that is normally made with ground meat. Pastitsio takes its name from the Italian pasticcio which is derived from the word pasta, and means “pie.” So we are essentially making a pasta pie. Many think of Pastitsio as Greek lasagna since it is assembled in layers; a layer of large macaroni or Bucatini, a layer of meaty sauce topped with another layer of pasta and finished with a cheesy Béchamel or Mornay sauce that may or may not have eggs tempered into it to make a custard-like top. My Pastitisio is a vegetarian Pastitsio , so no meat. For a vegan version, leave out the eggs in the Mornay sauce and substitute the Parmesan cheese with Nutritional Yeast.

Start with your fresh elements for the sauce first. Finely dice two small squash, I used a green zucchini and a yellow squash which makes about a cup of diced squash. Add to that one large sweet onion diced up fine. These will be sauteed to caramelize the onions a bit and cook down the squash. Chopping vegetables is a sort of therapy for me, I do it at my leisure seated at the table with the ceiling fan turning idly above my head.

Wash and finely chop your mushrooms. I pulse together white mushrooms with Portabella in my Ninja to get a variation in color and texture that resembles ground meat. Add these to your saute pan to make the “meat” for your sauce. Season the mushroom mixture with salt and pepper just as you would ground meat.

   

Now it is time to get saucy! Add your can of crushed tomatoes to the mushroom mixture and season it liberally with roast garlic powder (or regular garlic powder if you do not have the roasted kind) and dried Italian herbs. Now add just a dash of nutmeg. Next hit it with a splash of red wine and stir in some Sun Dried Tomatoes that were packed in oil, this will give your sauce an “I cooked it all day” richness. Allow the sauce to come to a boil and then lower the heat to allow it to simmer while you prepare your pasta according to the package directions.

 

Drain your pasta and spread half of it in the bottom of your lightly oiled 13″ × 9″ baking dish. Pour the sauce generously over this layer of pasta. Top that with the other half of the pasta and set it aside. If you end up with extra sauce, just freeze it for a future use. Now it is time to make the Mornay sauce, this requires your complete attention. Start by making a roux (roo), melt three tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan, add three tablespoons of flour to that. To make this a gluten free dish, simply substitute gluten free flour for this step and use a gluten free tube pasta. Start stirring and keep stirring as your roux begins to mesh and bubble, slowly, and I do mean S-L-O-W-L-Y, stir in your milk and keep stirring to make sure there are no lumps. Bring the sauce to a boil to aid thickening. Stir in your Parmesan cheese or Nutritional yeast and season it with salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Grated fresh nutmeg would be best, but the already grated kind works too, just go easy, this is Mornay sauce, not a latte. You will get a creamy, cheese sauce.

 

You could stop here and just pour the cream sauce over the top of your dish, but it is really something special to make the top a custard. This requires adding a couple of cold eggs to our already hot sauce. How to do this without cooking the egg in the sauce??? Tempering is the answer. To temper eggs simply whip them in a bowl and slowing add spoonfuls of your hot sauce to the cold eggs while you continue to whisk them. Once the bottom of the bowl is no longer cold, you can add the whole bowl of egg mixture to your pan of sauce and stir it up. NOW you can pour it evenly over the top of your noodle pie. It bakes up into a cheesy, custard on top!

 

I added some additional Parmesan cheese all over the top, for vegan just use Nutritional Yeast here. I also added some additional pepper, Italian herbs and garlic powder. Bake the dish in a preheated 375º oven for 40 minutes. I live on the coast, you may need to adjust your cooking time for higher altitudes. Pull it from the oven when it is bubbly and golden and let it rest for about 10 minutes to make serving easier.  This dish can stand alone, but I like to serve it with a salad or some other vegetable dish, in this case I served it with some Ratatouille, a roasted veggie casserole. The family was super happy with the results and felt like they had eaten at a fine Greek cafe. 🙂

 

  • 1 16 oz box Bucatini (large macaroni)
  • 1 small Zucchini, diced
  • 1 small Yellow squash, diced
  • 1 pkg Portabella Mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 pkg White Mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 large Sweet Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large can Crushed Tomatoes with Basil
  • 2-3 T Red Wine
  • 3 T Sun-dried Tomatoes packed in Olive Oil
  • 1 T or so Dried Italian Herbs
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
  • Dash of Nutmeg

Mornay Sauce:

  • 3 T Unsalted Butter
  • 3 T Gluten-Free Flour (or All Purpose Flour)
  • 2 C Almond Milk (or you can use regular milk if your prefer)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 tsp or so Roast Garlic Powder
  • Dash Nutmeg
  • ¼ C Parmesan Cheese or Nutritional Yeast
  • 2 Eggs, tempered
  1. Preheat the oven to 370º Fahrenheit.
  2. Finely dice the squash and onion and saute it until it starts to soften
  3. Put the mushrooms in a processor and pulse a few times to finely chop them and add them to the saute pan.
  4. Season the mushroom mixture with salt and pepper.
  5. Stir in 1 large can of crushed tomatoes with basil and season with garlic powder, Italian herbs and a dash of nutmeg.
  6. Stir in a splash of red wine and 3 T of sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer.
  7. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions.
  8. Lightly oil a 13×9 baking dish and spread half the pasta in the bottom.
  9. Pour meaty sauce over the first pasta layer generously.
  10. Spread the other half of the pasta over the sauce layer
  11. Make your Mornay cheese sauce and temper with 2 eggs.
    1. Melt butter in a sauce pan and stir in flour until it forms a golden paste.
    2. Slowly add milk and keep stirring to smooth any lumps and form a thickened sauce.
    3. Add Parmesan Cheese or Nutritional Yeast, salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg
    4. Temper 2 eggs and then stir the egg mixture into the sauce
  12. Pour the Mornay sauce over the top of the top layer of noodles evenly.
  13. Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese or Nutritional Yeast and season with additional Italian Herbs, Black Pepper and Garlic Powder.
  14. Bake at 375º for 40 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly.
  15. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving!

Enjoy!

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