Pastitsio is a Greek pasta bake that’s bursting with flavor. Learn how to make pastitsio recipe with this step-by-step tutorial and video.
Greek recipes, like all Mediterranean recipes, are all so delicious and tasty. From the chicken souvlaki and spanakopita to the simple tzatziki, 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.
What is pastitsio?
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. Pastitsio is the quintessential Greek comfort food, perfect for dinner or a family gathering.
Easy pastitsio recipe
Pasta is one of those dishes that never gets old. There are so many ways to make pasta but this pastitsio recipe is one of our favorites because it’s packed with so many unique flavors, such as cinnamon and oregano. The pasta is mixed with eggs, parmesan and parsley to bind it together. The meat sauce is seasoned with aromatic spices and the bechamel sauce is made from scratch, flavored with grated parmesan cheese.
Even though making this Greek baked pasta recipe might seem like a lot of work, it can be done in steps and the final dish will absolutely be worth every minute.
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 marinara sauce but for this Greek pastitsio recipe we use a creamy bechamel sauce.
As for Greek pastitsio vs moussaka, these two Mediterranean recipes are very similar as they’re both Greek recipes. However, moussaka uses eggplants and potatoes and no pasta. Pastitsio calls for only pasta and no eggplant or potatoes.
Ingredients to make Greek pastitsio recipe
This Greek pasta recipe is made in three parts and for each part, you need some ingredients:
- Salt and pepper
- Parmesan cheese
- Red onions
- Tomato paste
- Ground beef
- Ground lamb
- Penne or Pastitsio pasta (No.2)
- Parmesan cheese
Authentic Greek pastitsio is made with pastitsio pasta which is like thick spaghetti with a hole running through it. Since this kind of pasta is not available in every supermarket, the next best thing is to use penne pasta which we did in this recipe. The ingredient list to make this Greek pasta casserole might seem long but you probably have more more than half of them in your pantry already.
How to make Greek pastitsio recipe
Making homemade pastitsio 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 make Pastitsio recipe.
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.
The meat filling
- Saute 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.
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, top with the meat sauce and bechamel sauce.
- Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until fully set.
A small tip: To have clean slices, let the dish cool for about 15 minutes and then using a large, sharp knife, cut the slices. Wipe the knife between each slice to make sure all the slices are clean.
What to serve with pastitsio
I love serving pastitsio with a side salad such as Traditional Greek salad. This is a delicious dish on its own and every layer has so much flavor.
How to make vegetarian pastitsio recipe
Traditional pastitsio 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 Greek pastitsio recipe is that you can make 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 Greek pastitsio
Yes, pastitsio freezes beautifully. Let the dish cool completely, then cover it tightly with aluminum foil and freeze for up to two months.
How to reheat pastitsio
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.
Looking for more Mediterranean recipes?
- Skordalia (Greek potato and garlic dip)
- Greek lemon chicken and orzo soup
- Greek one pan chicken and rice
- Oven roasted Greek potatoes
- Keftedes (Greek meatballs)
Notes and tips for making Greek lasagna
- 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.
Easy Greek Pastitsio Recipe
- 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
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 red onions 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- You can make the bechamel sauce and the meat sauce a day in advance and refrigerate in separate containers until you're ready to bake.
- 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.
- Not a fan of lamb? You can use all ground beef as well.