This Pastitsio recipe is my easy version with some clever tricks to get it on the table faster than other pastitsio recipes, but it's just as delicious.
I’ve been wanting to make a 30 minute Pastitsio recipe for aaaaages, but I wasn’t quite sure how to cut it down to the 30 minute mark. I played with the idea of using mashed potato as the topping, but it seemed too much like moussaka, and too much of a departure from your traditional pastitsio recipe, not to mention too many carbs - I mean I love carbs, but even I’ll admit that potato on pasta is excessive.
I played around with a few ideas and I’ve come up with, what I believe, is the easiest and tastiest 30 minute Pastitsio you’ll find. Is it the traditional, authentic way of making pastitsio? Not by a long measure. But is it delicious? Hell yeah!
What is Pastitsio?
Often referred to as Greek Lasagne, it’s a hearty and comforting pasta bake which has a layer of tightly packed macaroni pasta (or other cylindrical pasta), topped with meat sauce and then a thick layer of creamy cheesy bechamel topping. It’s striking because when you cut a slice you can see the stacks of pasta holes sitting under the meat sauce and cheese.
What makes this Pastitsio recipe easier than other pastitsio recipes?
I use a few clever tricks to make this Pastitsio easier and faster than your regular pastitsio recipe. Forget hours in the kitchen, this one can be whipped up after a long day, no trouble.
- Bechamel sauce usually tops this dish, but we’ll replace it with a mixture of cream cheese, parmesan cheese, egg yolk and nutmeg. This saves on cooking time and washing up, as you don’t have to stand over the stove making a bechamel sauce.
- Pastitsio meat sauce is thick, not saucy, and usually requires long cooking time to reduce liquid down to a thicker sauce. Instead I used herbs, spices, tomato paste concentrate and… VEGEMITE to give the lamb depth of flavour without slow cooking. Yes, Vegemite. You read that right. Just 2 teaspoons of vegemite will give you a rich, deep, umami flavour you need. If you can’t find Vegemite you can always use a beef stock cube.
- Hot Oven - most Pastitsio recipes suggest you wait for your sauce to cool, then place in the oven. We won’t do that, mainly because I didn’t, and it worked fine.
How do you get the pasta to line up in this Pastitsio recipe?
The short answer - I don't!
A lot of recipes call for you to use Ziti, which is a Greek pasta kind of like a mix between macaroni and penne. It is straight, and that means that to get the stack of cylinders you have to line the pasta up neatly.
Instead I suggest a curly pasta like macaroni or cavatappi, as the spirals lock together when you press them down. We’ll also mix through the egg white and this will help the pasta hold together when you are slicing it.
What is the difference between moussaka and pastitsio?
Moussaka is made by layering eggplant, lamb and has a mashed potato topping, while pastitsio is made by layering pasta, lamb mince and cheese, and is more similar to lasagne than moussaka. The flavours are different to lasagne though, Pastitsio uses lamb mince instead of beef or veal in lasagne, and uses cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.
Try if you can to wait 5-10 minutes after taking your Pastitsio from the oven before you serve it. This will ensure that it holds together and comes out in neat slices.
- Alternative proteins - You can swap lamb for beef mince. I haven’t tried it with chicken mince but it could be quite nice - just different.
- Vegetarian - Use beyond beef, Quorn mince or lentils in place of lamb mince.
- Gluten Free - Use gluten free pasta spirals, gluten free Vegemite and gluten free Worcestershire sauce.
- Dairy Free - Instead of a cream cheese layer, skip the cheesy top and sprinkle over dairy free shredded parmesan instead. This will mean you have a thinner layer of cheese, but it will still be delicious.
- This recipe is made for kids - no need to make changes.
You will need a large pot, a stovetop, a frying pan, a baking dish, an oven.
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Pastitsio Recipe (Greek Lasagne)
- Large pot
- Frying pan
- Baking dish
- 1 brown onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon olive oil 1.5 tablespoon total for the recipe
- 500 g lamb mince
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon oregano leaves
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon total for the recipe
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- 350 g macaroni pasta
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 400 g crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoon vegemite sub. beef stock cube
- 2 bay leaf
- ½ bunch basil
- 250 g cream cheese
- 100 g grated parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon total for the recipe
- ½ teaspoon olive oil 1.5 tablespoon total for the recipe
- Black pepper
- Place a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon salt on to boil. Preheat your oven to 220 C.Salt
- Peel and chop onion. Peel and crush garlic. Divide egg yolk and white.1 brown onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 egg
- Place a frying pan on high heat, add oil and saute onion and garlic for 1-2 minutes. Add lamb mince a handful at a time and cook, browning as you do, then add herbs and spices and stir through.1 brown onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 500 g lamb mince, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon oregano leaves, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- Add pasta to the boiling pasta water. Cook according to packet instructions, then drain.350 g macaroni pasta
- To the lamb add tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and half an empty tomato can of water, Worcestershire sauce, vegemite (sub. beef stock cube), and bay leaf, and simmer for 8 minutes. Tear in basil, taste and season with salt and pepper.1 tablespoon tomato paste, 400 g crushed tomatoes, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoon vegemite, 2 bay leaf, ½ bunch basil, Black pepper, Salt
- In a bowl mix together cream cheese, parmesan cheese, nutmeg, egg yolk, salt and pepper.1 egg, 250 g cream cheese, 100 g grated parmesan cheese, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, Salt, Black pepper
- Spray a baking dish (20cm x 20 cm) with olive oil, then add drained pasta. Mix egg white through briefly to combine (stop as soon as you see the egg turning opaque), and then press down with the back of your spoon.TIP: The egg white helps the pasta pieces hold together, so don’t over stir it or it won’t set.½ teaspoon olive oil, 1 egg
- Add lamb mixture and layer over, press down again, then add cream cheese layer. Place in the oven for 8-10 minutes.
- If you can, try to wait about 5-10 minutes after taking it from the oven before you slice it, because it will hold together much better.Serve big slices of this hearty Pastitsio, and enjoy!