My friends over at Just a Pinch wanted me to make "my version" of the traditional Pastichio. They had made my version of the "traditional Moussaka" and they loved it. So they wanted me to show them my family's version of the Pastichio. Just like any heritage, there are differences in how the food is prepared depending on the region you are from. Excuse the "mom jeans". They are one of the most comfortable pair. Even though they are big on me... they feel like an old pair of pajamas if you know what I mean! I know, I know, my kids my fun of me all the time!!
So anyway, this is my family's version of the Pastichio which I grew up on. There is no garlic in this recipe as seen in some other versions depending on their region of course. I can still remember one of my cousin's asking her mom, "mama, why isn't there any garlic in this"? Well, you could hear a pin drop! Everyone and everything went silent in the kitchen, I'm almost positive, time stopped! All 3 of my aunts and my mom glared at my cousin like she was an alien, yet not a word was spoken. We quickly learned not to ask any questions, only to observe, provide and clean!
Ah, yes, the fun times...
Our moms are our idols. They taught us everything we know. They have molded each and every one of us into the women we are today. They taught us amazing tips, values, morals, traditions and Greek dishes to make for our family. They made sure we knew the proper way of doing things, and if we messed up, eventually someone's hair was pulled!! Yet I cannot think back even one time when we were all in the kitchen cooking and baking up a storm, that there wasn't a ton of chatter, singing, laughing and the occasional let's break into dance. I love them so!!
So without further ado...
2lbs ground beef (I used 85/15 ratio for this)
28Oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 large onion chopped
2 tsp tomato paste
2 cinnamon sticks or 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
4 cups milk (I used 2%)
1 stick unsalted butter
4 large eggs beaten
10 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup Kefalotyri Cheese (can use grated Romano)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper (can use black)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1lbs long macaroni (I used Zitoni) found in the Italian section
1 cup Kefalotyri Cheese (can use grated Romano)
2 tbsp Kefalotyri Cheese (can use grated Romano)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
-In a large saucepan add enough water and a couple of pinches of salt and bring water to boil for pasta.
-Using a large stockpot, add your ground beef, and proceed to crumble till the ground beef is browned. Add your onions in and saute for 3-5 minutes till the onions have become soft and translucent. Or as I like to say, "happy".
-Add your crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and finally your cinnamon. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
-Meanwhile, pasta water should be boiling. Add your macaroni in and boil till almost Ala Dente, not quite. You still want a bite to these noodles because you will finish off baking them in the oven. Does that make sense? Cool!
-Drain your noodles, and stop the cooking process by rinsing them in cold water. Just like you would if making a pasta or macaroni salad. Drain well, add to a large bowl and sprinkle with the Kefalotyri Cheese. Toss well.
-Using a large baking pan, pre-spray with baking spray. Add your noodles in the baking pan with all the noodles laying in one direction.
-Add that wonderful, amazing beyond aromatic ground beef sauce directly over the noodles. Don't worry if a couple of noodles are peeking through, it's all good. Or do as I do, pull that one out and insert directly into mouth. What?
-Let's make our Bechamel. Using a large saucepan, add the butter, once melted add in the flour. Let it cook for about 1 minute or so. You will know when the flour is cooked because it will start to bubble.
-Pour in your milk all at once. Whisking constantly till the Bechamel thickens. This will take about 5 minutes. Sing a song, that's what I do.
-Turn off the heat, add in your Kefalotyri Cheese, your pepper, salt and finally the nutmeg. Set aside.
-In a small bowl beat your eggs. In a medium bowl, add 2-3 ladle fulls of Bechamel. Temper the Bechamel by adding the eggs to the very hot Bechamel. Once incorporated, return the now tempered sauce into the large saucepan where the rest of the Bechamel is. Whisk in till thoroughly incorporated. Pour the now tempered sauce over the Pastichio. Sprinkle with the topping of cheese and a little bit more nutmeg.
-Bake in a pre-heated 350F for 45-55 minutes, or till edges are starting to become golden brown. Remove from the oven and let rest for approximately 20 minutes.
I know, I have such a hard time waiting. Try not to pick on any corners... what?
Cut into large squares, top with a sprinkle of additional cheese if so desired and serve.
I hope you make this very simple version my friends. It's simplicity is exactly what gives it the most amazing flavor. So if you will excuse me, I'm off to "dig in".
Till next time!
Dishin with Didi