Easy Greek Pastitsio Recipe

4.91 from 44 votes
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Pastitsio is a Greek pasta bake that’s bursting with flavor. Layers of pasta, meat sauce and bechamel sauce makes this dish so unique and delicious.

Pastitsio is a Greek pasta bake that's bursting with flavor. Learn how to make pastitsio with this step-by-step tutorial and video.


 

Many of our favorites dishes happen to be Greek in origin. From chicken souvlaki and spanakopita to the simple avgolemono, tzatziki and gyro, every dish is made with so much care and contains delicious flavors. Today’s recipe is the ultimate Greek comfort food: pastitsio, a Greek pasta recipe that’s made with creamy bechamel sauce and a flavorful meat sauce. Just like classic moussaka, this recipe is a labor of love but so worth it!

About this recipe

Pastitsio, also called pastichio, is a Greek pasta bake dish made of pasta, a ground meat sauce and bechamel sauce. The name originates from Italian pasticcio, which refers to the category of baked savory dishes made with meat or pasta. Some might call it a Greek lasagna or a Greek pasta bake. This is a quintessential Greek comfort food, perfect for dinner or a family gathering. 

The pasta is mixed with eggs, parmesan and parsley to bind it together. The meat sauce is seasoned with aromatic spices such as cinnamon and oregano and the bechamel sauce is made from scratch, flavored with grated parmesan cheese. 

Pastitsio vs. lasagna vs. moussaka

Let’s do a little comparison between these comfort dishes. What’s the difference between lasagna and pastitsio? These two dishes are very similar since they both have a pasta and meat sauce. However, lasagna is made in layers of pasta and meat sauce whereas pastitsio has one layer of each. Lasagna uses ricotta but for this Greek baked pasta recipe we use a creamy bechamel sauce. 

As for pastitsio vs. moussaka, these two Greek recipes are very similar. However, moussaka uses eggplants and potatoes and no pasta. Pastitsio calls for only pasta and no eggplant or potatoes.  

Bake pastitsio recipe in a 9x13 pan.

Ingredients and substitutions

This Greek pasta recipe is made in three parts. Let’s review the ingredients:

To make pastitsio recipe at home you need onion, pasta, beef and lamb plus tomatoes, eggs, spices, flour and milk.

Bechamel sauce:

  • Butter – It’s best to use unsalted butter so you’re in control of seasoning.
  • Flour – All purpose flour works best in this recipe. For a gluten free version, use gluten free flour.
  • Milk – I like using whole or 2% milk, but 1% works too. It’s best not to use skim milk.
  • Parmesan cheese – Traditionally, pastitsio is made with Kefalotyri cheeese but since that’s not widely available in the US, freshly grated cheese is the best for this sauce.
  • Eggs – To bring the sauce together, we need a couple of eggs. The eggs have to be at room temperature so they mix well into the sauce.

Meat Sauce: 

  • Onion and garlic – I used red onion but yellow or white onion work as well. Make sure not to add too much garlic to the sauce since we want other flavors and spices to shine.
  • Tomato paste – Since tomato paste is dense, we only need a couple of tablespoons to enhance the flavor and color.
  • Ground beef and lamb – I went with a combination of beef and lamb for this pasta bake but you can use only lamb or only beef.
  • Spices – We’re going to use a combination of oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
  • Tomatoes – You can use canned or fresh chopped tomatoes.

Pasta:

  • Penne or Pastitsio pasta (No.2) – It’s best to use the special pasta. However, penne works just fine.
  • Oil – Both olive oil and vegetable oil work for this recipe. 
  • Eggs – To bind the pasta together. Again, keep the eggs at room temp so they don’t curdle when mixed with the pasta.
  • Parmesan cheese – You can use Kefalotyri if that’s available.

Instructions

Making this recipe might take longer than a regular pasta dish but it’s worth every minute. There are three main steps in making this Greek lasagna recipe. Please watch the video for step-by-step tutorial on how to this dish.

The bechamel sauce 

  • Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. 
  • Whisk in the flour until it’s completely mixed and doesn’t smell raw. 
  • Very slowly, add the milk and whisk at the same time. This will help you avoid lumpy bechamel. 
  • Add salt and pepper. Cook on medium low until the sauce thickens. 
  • Turn the heat off, whisk in the parmesan and eggs. 
to make the white sauce cook the butter and flour then add the milk and cook until thickens. Add in the eggs and parmesan.

The meat filling

  • Sauté onion and garlic in a large pan over medium heat. 
  • Add in tomato paste, ground beef and ground lamb. Cook until the beef and lamb are brown. 
  • Add the spices, water, canned tomatoes and bay leaves. Let the meat sauce cook for about 30 minutes until the water has almost completely evaporated. 
to make the meat sauce saute onion and garlic add tomato paste and ground meat then add the tomatoes and cook.

Assemble and bake

  • Prepare the pasta to al dente and rinse. 
  • Mix the pasta with olive oil, eggs and parsley. 
  • Place pasta at the bottom of the baking pan, then top with the meat sauce and bechamel sauce. 
  • Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until fully set. 
cook the pasta, add parmesan, add eggs and parsley. Layer with the meat sauce and white sauce. Bake in the oven.

Pro tip: To ensure clean slices, let the dish cool for about 15 minutes and then cut the slices using a large, sharp knife. Wipe the knife between each slice to make sure all the slices are clean. 

Serving suggestions

I love serving this classic Greek pasta bake with a side salad such as Greek salad or Mediterranean salad. Other delicious side dishes are tzatziki or cacik. This is a delicious dish on its own and every layer has so much flavor. 

Frequently asked questions

How long does this keep?

This dish keeps pretty well if store properly. Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Can I make this recipe vegetarian?

The traditional version is made with a combination of beef and lamb. If you would like to make vegetarian pastitsio, follow the instructions to make the meat sauce but use cooked lentils or fried eggplant instead of beef and lamb. 

Can you make this ahead of time? 

Absolutely! What I love the most about this recipe is that you can make and assemble it ahead of time and simply bake it when you’re ready. Cook the pasta, the bechamel sauce and the meat sauce. Assemble the dish as instructed but don’t bake it. Cover it with a plastic wrap tightly and refrigerate for up to two days.
When you’re ready to bake, heat the oven to 350ºF and bake it for about 45 minutes to one hour until set and the top is golden. 

Can you freeze this dish?

Yes, pastitsio freezes beautifully. Let the dish cool completely, then cover it tightly with aluminum foil and freeze for up to two months.
To reheat, thaw the dish in the fridge overnight. Preheat the oven to 300ºF and heat the dish in the oven for about 30 minutes or until it’s completely heated through. 

Let this Greek pasta bake cool before you slice it so the slices are clean.

Notes and tips

  • For a gluten free version, use gluten free pasta and gluten free flour.
  • You can make the meat sauce and the bechamel ahead of time and store them in separate containers. When ready to bake, prepare the pasta following the instructions and assemble the dish. 
  • It’s best to use lean meat when making the meat sauce for this Greek baked pasta recipe. If using meat that has fat content higher than 7%, please discard the excess fat so the final dish is not too greasy.
  • If you’re not a fan of penne and pastitsio pasta is not available, try using bucatini pasta for this recipe. 
  • Instead of cinnamon, you can use a 2 inch cinnamon stick in the sauce but make sure you remove it before adding the meat sauce to the dish. 
Pastitsio is also known as Greek lasagna A slice of it is topped with chopped parsley.

More Greek recipes

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4.91 from 44 votes

Easy Greek Pastitsio Recipe

Pastitsio is a Greek pasta bake that's bursting with flavor. Layers of pasta, meat sauce and bechamel sauce makes this dish so unique and delicious.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
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Ingredients 

Bechamel Sauce

  • 1/2 stick butter, cut into pieces
  • 5 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs

Meat sauce

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground lamb
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, 15 oz.
  • 2 bay leaves

Pasta

  • 1 lb penne pasta, or pastitsio pasta No.2
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup parsley

Instructions 

Bechamel sauce

  • Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat.
  • Add in the flour and whisk well. Cook until it doesn't smell raw.
  • Slowly pour in the milk, stirring constantly to make sure no lumps form.
  • lower the heat and add the salt and pepper.
  • Keep stirring and cooking until the sauce thickens.
  • Turn the heat off, stir the parmesan into the sauce.
  • Add in the eggs one by one and stir very well after each addition. Set the bechamel sauce aside.

Meat sauce

  • Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
  • Saute onion and garlic until soft and translucent.
  • Add in the tomato sauce and mix it with the onion and garlic.
  • Add in the ground beef and ground lamb. Brown them in the pan and break them as you cook them.
  • Add in oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Stir well and cook for a minute.
  • Add in the water, canned tomatoes and add the bay leaves. Keep the heat on medium and cook the meat sauce for about 30 minutes or until the water is almost evaporated.
  • Taste the sauce to make sure it has enough salt, add more if needed.
  • Remove the bay leaves and set the sauce aside.

Pasta

  • Cook the penne according to the packaging and drain.
  • Once the pasta is cool enough to handle, place it in a bowl and mix it with olive oil, eggs, parmesan and parsley to it.

Assemble:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F and coat a 9X13 baking pan with non stick spray.
  • Transfer the pasta to the baking pan. Top it with all the meat sauce and make sure to spread evenly.
  • Top the meat sauce with the bechamel sauce and sprinkle some parmesan cheese if desired.
  • Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until it's all set and the top is golden brown.
  • To cut, let the pastitsio cool for 10 minutes, then using a large, sharp knife, slice the baked pasta into squares.

Video

Notes

  • For vegetarian pastitsio use cooked lentils or fried eggplant instead of meat. 
  • Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat using a microwave or the oven. 
  • This Greek pasta bake recipe is made with a combination of ground lamb and ground beef. However, you can use all lamb or all beef. 
  • You can make the meat sauce and the bechamel ahead of time and store them in separate containers. When ready to bake, prepare the pasta following the instructions and assemble the dish. 
  • It’s best to use lean meat when making the meat sauce for this Greek baked pasta recipe. If using meat that has fat content higher than 7%, please discard the excess fat so the final dish is not too greasy.
  • If you’re not a fan of penne and pastitsio pasta is not available, try using bucatini pasta for this recipe. 
  • Instead of cinnamon, you can use a 2 inch cinnamon stick in the sauce but make sure you remove it before adding the meat sauce to the dish. 

Nutrition

Calories: 768kcal | Carbohydrates: 59g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 43g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 181mg | Sodium: 1187mg | Potassium: 744mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 1016IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 357mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About Shadi HasanzadeNemati

I'm here to show you how to make delicious Persian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food at home. My easy to follow recipes will bring exciting new flavors to your table!

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4.91 from 44 votes (27 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




23 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Super yummy comfort food! Kind of like lasagna made with penne noodles and more Mediterranean flavors. Definitely want to try making your tzatziki to go with it.

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve never had Pastitsio before, but I love anything pasta! Definitely need to add this to my list to make, maybe for dinner next week. Thanks for the recipe!

  3. 5 stars
    This is such a great family meal!! We love it! I used dairy-free cheese and butter since that’s what we had on hand and it turned out delicious.