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Rick Stein’s Pastitsio – Beef and Macaroni Pie with Cinnamon, Red Wine and Kefalotiri Cheese

If you love lasagne, you'll want to try Rick Stein's take on a Greek pastitsio. Featuring tubular pasta, beef flavoured with aromatic spices and a golden, bubbling cheese and breadcrumb topping, this is comfort food the whole family will love.

From the book

Introduction

I have a great affection for the Mediterranean baked dishes of meat, pasta, tomato and kefalotiri – a dry, firm, ewe’s milk cheese, full of irregular holes. It ranges in colour from white through to pale yellow, depending on the grazing of the sheep, and is fresh and slightly sharp-tasting, with a distinct flavour of ewe’s milk.

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Ingredients

500g tubular pasta, such as rigatoni, penne or tortiglioni
2 eggs, lightly beaten
50g Greek kefalotiri cheese or Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 tbsp melted butter
10g fresh white breadcrumbs
For the white sauce:
115g butter
115g plain flour
1.2 ltr whole milk, plus a little extra
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
For the meat sauce:
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1kg lean beef mince
200ml red wine
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
10cm cinnamon stick
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp dried oregano, Greek if possible
2 tbsp fresh chopped oregano
3 fresh bay leaves
salt and black pepper

Essential kit

You will need: a shallow ovenproof dish measuring about 23 x 33cm and 7cm deep.

Method

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

Add the red wine, tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon stick, ground cloves, dried and fresh oregano, bay leaves, 100ml of water, 1½ teaspoons of salt and some black pepper. Simmer for 30–40 minutes, stirring now and then, until the sauce has thickened but is still nicely moist. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, then set the sauce aside.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Take care not to overcook, as it will cook a little more in the oven. Drain well, transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool slightly.

For the white sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and cook, while stirring, over a medium heat, for 1 minute. Gradually beat in the milk, then bring to the boil, still 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 180°C/Fan 160°C. Stir 250ml (about one-fifth) of the white sauce into the warm pasta together 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 measuring about 23 x 33cm across and 7cm deep. Spread one-third of the pasta mixture 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 30–40 minutes until bubbling hot and golden brown on top.

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From the book: Rick Stein at Home: Recipes, Memories and Stories from a Food Lover’s Kitchen

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