Pastitsio - Greek meat & macaroni pie

Pastitsio or Greek meat and macaroni pie, is a Greek dish including three essential components: pasta, meat, and a béchamel sauce. The dish comes from the Italian tradition of "pasticcio (di pasta)", literally mess or scramble.

The usual Greek version has a bottom layer that is bucatini or other tubular pasta with cheese and egg as a binder; a middle layer of ground meat (beef, veal or lamb) with tomato and spices; another layer of pasta; and a top layer of creamy Béchamel sauce with cheese. Grated cheese and nutmeg are often sprinkled on top. All are layered in a baking dish and baked to a golden brown.

The pasta used is in general Bucatini: a thick Spaghetti style pasta which is hollow through the center, similar to a drinking straw.

Though it is also possible to use Penne pasta for this dish, this is what I did because I had it in my pantry, some people prefer to stick as close as possible to the classic composition and use bucatini.

This is the ultimate Greek comfort food, a dish I will do over and over again!

Ingredients (serves 8-10):

For the meat sauce:
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1kg (2¼ lb) lean minced beef
7fl oz (200 ml) red wine
14 oz (400g) can chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
4 in (10 cm) piece cinnamon stick
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp dried oregano, Greek if possible
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
3 fresh bay leaves
3½ fl oz (100ml) water
1½ tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper

For the pasta:
8 tsp salt
1 lb 2oz (500g) tubular pasta, such as rigatoni, tubetti or tortiglioni (I used Penne)
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
1¾ oz (50g) Greek kefalotiri cheese or parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 tbsp melted butter
½ oz (10g) fresh white breadcrumbs

For the white sauce:
4¼ oz (115g) butter
4¼ oz (115g) plain flour
1.2 litres (2 pints) whole milk, plus a little extra
½ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the meat sauce, heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pan, add the onion, garlic and celery and fry until just beginning to brown. Add the minced beef and fry over a high heat for 3-4 minutes, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon as it browns.

Add the red wine, tomatoes, tomato purée, cinnamon stick, ground cloves, dried and fresh oregano, bay leaves, water, the 1½ teaspoons salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste, and simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring now and then, until the sauce has thickened but is still nicely moist.

Remove from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaves.

For the pasta, bring 4.5 litres/8 pints water to the boil in a large saucepan with the eight teaspoons salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 13 minutes, but take care not to overcook as it will cook a little further in the oven. Drain well, transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool slightly.

For the white sauce, melt the butter in a medium-sized non-stick saucepan, add the flour and cook, stirring, over a medium heat, for one minute. Gradually beat in the milk, then bring to the boil, stirring. Lower the heat and leave to simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Season with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Stir 9fl oz (250ml) (about one-fifth) of the white sauce into the warm pasta with the beaten eggs and half the grated cheese. Keep the remaining sauce warm over a low heat, stirring now and then and adding more milk if it begins to get a little thick.

Use the melted butter to grease a large, shallow ovenproof dish that measures about 23cm x 33cm (9in x 13in) across and 7cm (2½in) deep. Spread one-third of the pasta over the base of the dish and cover with half the meat sauce.

Add another third of the pasta and then the rest of the meat sauce, then cover with a final layer of pasta. Spoon over the remaining white sauce.

Mix the remaining grated cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle them over the top. Bake for 40 minutes until bubbling hot and golden brown.

Pastitsio - Gratin de macaronis et bolognaise

Ingrédients (8 à 10 personnes):

Sauce à la viande:
4 càs d’huile d’olive
1 oignon, finement émincé
4 gousses d’ail, finement hachées
2 branches de céleri, finement émincés
1 kg de bœuf haché
20 cl de vin rouge
400 g de tomates épépinées et hachées ou en boîte
2 càs de concentré de tomate ou purée de tomate
1 bâton de cannelle
1 clou de girofle
1 càs d’origan séché
2 càs d’origan frais
3 feuilles de laurier séchées
10 cl d’eau
1 ½ càc de sel
Poivre du moulin

8 càc de sel
500 g de pâtes rigatoni, tubetti or tortiglioni (j'ai utilisé des Penne)
2 œufs battus
50 g de fromage grec Kefalotiri ou parmesan râpé
2 càs de beurre fondu
10 g de chapelure

Sauce blanche:
115 g de beurre
115 g de farine
1.2 litre de lait entier + un peu plus pour rallonger la sauce
½ càc de muscade râpée
Sel et poivre

Pour la sauce, faites chauffer l’huile d’olive dans une grande poêle.
Ajoutez l’oignon haché, l’ail haché, le céleri haché, et faites frire jusqu’à une légère coloration.
Ensuite, ajoutez le bœuf haché, faites le frire 4 minutes en appuyant bien sur la viande avec une cuillère en bois pour bien détacher les gros morceaux de viande.

Versez le vin rouge, la chair des tomates, la purée de tomate, le bâton de cannelle, le clou de girofle, l’origan séché et frais, les feuilles de laurier, l’eau, le sel, le poivre et faites mijoter sur feu doux 30 à40 minutes en remuant souvent. La sauce doit bien épaissir.

Réservez au chaud, retirez la bâton de cannelle et les feuilles de laurier.

Pour les pâtes, portez une grande casserole de 4.5 l d’eau à ébullition avec 8 c à café de sel.
Ajoutez les pâtes et faites les cuire al dente environ 13 minutes. Attention à ne pas les faire trop cuire.
Bien les égouttez et versez-les dans un saladier en attendant qu’elles refroidissent.

Pour la sauce, faites fondre le beurre dans une casserole et ajoutez la farine. Remuez pendant une minute. Versez le lait graduellement en remuant en même temps. Portez à ébullition en continuant de bien remuer. Baissez le feu et laissez mijoter 5 à 7 minutes en remuant de temps en temps.

Râpez la noix de muscade, salez et poivrez.

Préchauffez le four à 180°C (th 6 1/2).
Versez 25 cl de la sauce blanche sur les pâtes avec les œufs battus et la moitié du fromage râpé.
Laissez le reste de la sauce blanche sur feu doux, remuez et rajoutez un peu de lait si la sauce est trop épaisse.

Graissez avec le beurre fondu un grand plat au four de 23cmX33cm et de 7 cm environ de profondeur.
Déposez 1/3 des pâtes sur la base du plat et couvrez avec la moitié de la sauce à la viande de bœuf.

Déposez 2/3 des pâtes et le reste de la sauce à la viande
Recouvrez du 3/3 des pâtes et déposez le reste de sauce blanche.

Mélangez le fromage râpé restant avec la chapelure. Répartissez la chapelure sur l’ensemble du plat.
Faites cuire environ 40 minutes au four. Le dessus du gratin doit être doré.

Adapted from Rick Stein's Mediterranean Escapes


  1. Chico, what a pleasant surprise...It's still one of my fave Greek dishes!

  2. I am a big fan of Pastitsio! Yours looks lip-smackingly good!



  3. Perfect comfort food--beautifully photographed!

  4. miam miam, le plat comfort food par excellence !

  5. This dish looks totally scrumptious. Total comfort food.

  6. On mangeait ce plat tout le temps a la maison sans se douter que c'est un plat Grec! J'aime aussi beaucoup/belle photos.

  7. Everything you post strikes me as perfect for the moment. I have been craving meat, pie, and pasta. Yum. Yum!

  8. Wow, this is absolutely fabulous. Good job : )

  9. Perfectly comforting. This must have been incredible!

  10. This gratin looks fantastic and so tempting! I am not eating meat, but I bet it can be prepared without meat!

    I have an award for you, please check on my page :-)

  11. Wow, this looks so scrumptious!

  12. I discovered this wonderful dish at a Greek restaurant not too long ago. Your version looks wonderful with all the spices in it.

  13. Très gourmand, qui tient chaud au ventre et si rassurant. On ne se lasse pas de ce genre de plats :-)

  14. Have you ever wondered where the reference to wines being the “nectars of the Gods” comes from? It comes to us from the myths of ancient Greece of course where wine was revered as part of many ancient religious festivals known as Bacchanals and where it was a wonder potion that was also known to restore virility, bestow mortality and revive the dead.
    I have some of wine list westchester has.

  15. I love pastitsio! Such a great comfort food.

  16. Sounds wonderful! Pastitsio is one of my favorite Greek specialties!

  17. Yours turned out nicely and sounds delicious. This was one of my children's favorite casseroles. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

  18. Looks and sounds very comforting. Your photo looks lovely. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Cherine, what a lovely comforting :-)

  20. Not that I am biased or anything ;) but pastitsio is one of my favorite dishes. As rustic as it may be, as much as Anthony Bourdain poked fun at it on his trip to Greece, I still adore it.

  21. Hi Chicho, I'm Greek and I must admit your Pastitsio outcome was as if it had emerged out of my Greek kitchen. I will search through your blog in hope to find some Lebanese recipe which I would love to try. By the way Happy New Year!


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