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Often referred to as “Greek lasagne,” pastitsio is a secret family recipe in many Greek households; but this one was too good to keep to ourselves.

You can make it the traditional way, by purchasing pastitio pasta (it’s not only the name of the dish, but also the pasta shape you need to make it, although bucatini and ziti will do in a pinch), and traditional Greek cheese, like Kelafotyri and Kasseri. If you live near a European deli or cheese shop, these should be easy to come by. But don’t worry if not; any salty, sheep’s milk cheese will bring the flavor you desire. It’s the perfect centerpiece to a cold-weather dinner party or take a cue from Greek culture and serve it in honor of Greek Easter.

How to Make It

Difficulty: Moderate

Overall Time: 2 hrs 15 min

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 1 hr 30 min

Serves: 8


Spiced Meat Sauce

  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lbs (908 g) lean ground beef or lamb, or 1 lb of each
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano, or 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 28 oz (796 mL) can whole peeled tomatoes

Bechamel Sauce

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3½ cups whole milk
  • 1½ cups grated Kelafotyri or Kasseri cheese
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten


  • 1 lb (454 g) Pastitsio or Bucatini or Ziti pasta
  • ½ cup grated Kelafotyri or Kasseri cheese
  1. To make the spiced meat sauce, heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and onions. Break up beef with a wooden spoon. Cook until beef browns, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaves, oregano, cinnamon and 2 tsp salt. Season with pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine and scrape up all browned bits. Simmer until wine is absorbed, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes. Swirl ½ cup water in can, then add to pot. Crush tomatoes into smaller pieces. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, approximately 30 to 35 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Remove from heat to cool slightly while you prepare bechamel and pasta.
  2. While spiced meat sauce cools, preheat oven to 375°F. Grease or butter a deep 9 x 13-in baking dish. Place on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips. Set aside.
  3. To make bechamel, melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking often, until golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add milk, about ½ cup at a time, whisking until smooth between each addition. Continue to cook, whisking often, until bechamel comes to a gentle boil, approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Remove pot from heat, then whisk in 1½ cups cheese and 1 tsp salt. Season with nutmeg and pepper, to taste. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then whisk in eggs until smooth.
  4. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water, following package instructions, until al dente. Drain pasta, then return to same pot, off heat. Add 1 ½ cups spiced meat sauce and 1 ½ cups bechamel to pasta, then toss to coat.
  5. Arrange pasta mixture in a compact layer in prepared baking dish. Spread remaining meat sauce over pasta mixture, creating a smooth surface. Spread remaining bechamel over meat sauce. Sprinkle remaining ½ cup cheese over top. Bake until cheese is golden and sauce bubbles around the edges, approximately 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

How to Store It

Spiced meat sauce will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat slightly before assembling Pastitsio.

Pastitsio by Casa de Suna
Pastitsio by Casa de Suna

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