Best Pastitsio Recipe – How to Make Homemade Pastitsio

Best Pastitsio Recipe - How to Make Homemade Pastitsio


Derived from the Italian word pasticcio, which means “mix” or “hodgepodge,” pastitsio is a classic Greek casserole best described as a cross between lasagna and moussaka. It’s composed of three separate elements—pasta, meat sauce, and a creamy white sauce called a béchamel—which are all made separately before being assembled in three distinct layers in a casserole dish and baked. Rich and hearty, creamy and comforting, it’s well worth the extra effort it takes to put together.

Read on for tips and information on this classic Greek food. Looking for more comforting pans? Check out our chicken pot pie casserole.

What’s in the pasta layer?

Traditionally, pastitsio is made with a thick tubular pasta known simply as “Pastitsio Pasta No. 2”; it’s similar to bucatini but larger and thicker. Since this pasta is not widely available in the US, we’re using bucatini, which has the same long, hollow strands that will stretch the length of the casserole dish, supporting and holding together the upper layers. If you can’t find bucatini, penne or ziti are good substitutes. Just be sure to slightly undercook whatever pasta you use, so it doesn’t get overcooked and musky in the oven.

What’s in the sauce?

The sauce for this pastitsio is similar to any classic red meat sauce: It starts with a base of chopped onions, garlic, and ground meat, which are then cooked with tomato paste and crushed tomatoes until it becomes a thick ragú. But unlike a classic Italian red meat sauce, this sauce features ground cinnamon and cloves as the main dominating spices. It’s also a lot thicker than a traditional meat sauce, mostly so it can comfortably sit on top of the pasta layer without soaking through.

How do I make the bechamel?

A béchamel is simply a white sauce made with roux and milk. Stir together equal parts fat and flour (also known as a roux) over medium heat on the stove until it turns a pale straw color. It may foam and bubble a little, and that’s okay—it’s just the moisture cooking out of the butter. Once the roux has reached that straw color, whisk in the milk slowly until evenly blended, then increase the temperature slightly and continue to cook until the béchamel is thick and velvety. From there, you can melt in your cheese and season it with the nutmeg and salt. For this recipe, we also whisk in 2 egg yolks—because it’s not rich enough!

Can I make this in advance?

You can definitely make the sauce up to a day in advance. We recommend letting it cool completely before storing it in an airtight container and refrigerating it. Because we’re mixing raw eggs in the pasta and the bechamel layers, we do not recommend prepping these two layers until the day you’re going to assemble and bake the entire casserole. Once baked, the casserole will stay good in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can also let it cool completely and then freeze the entire casserole for up to 1 month. Our favorite tip? Cut and freeze individual portions; they’re much easier to thaw and reheat and make great weeknight meals.

Made this? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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10 – 12


Prep Time:





Total Time:






2 tbsp.

extra virgin olive oil


cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp.

kosher salt, divided


(28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes

1 1/2 tsp.

low-sodium beef stock

1/2 tsp.

ground cinnamon


2 tbsp.

plus 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided

1/2 tsp.

(1 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 tsp.

all purpose flour


Kefalotyri or Pecorino Romano cheese, finely shredded, divided

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  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add beef and cook, stirring to break up large clumps, until browned and just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain any excess fat.
  2. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until paste is incorporated and beginning to stick to pan, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until pot is almost dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, stock, bay leaf, cinnamon, nutmeg, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a thick sauce, about 45 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat. Discard bay leaf and let sauce cool to room temperature.
  4. Make Ahead: Sauce can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container and refrigerate.


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 13″-by-9″ casserole dish with cooking spray.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add bucatini and 2 tablespoons salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 7 to 8 minutes (pasta should still be slightly undercooked in the center).
  3. Drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Add feta and 2 egg whites and toss to combine. Arrange pasta mixture in bottom of prepared dish, encouraging strands to lay as straight as possible, and top with meat sauce; set aside.
  4. In a medium pot over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture foams, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in milk. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring and constantly scraping bottom of pot, until thick and velvety, 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and add nutmeg, 6 ounces Kefalotyri cheese, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Stir until cheese is melted, then whisk in 2 egg yolks.
  5. Spoon bechamel sauce over top of meat sauce; sprinkle with remaining 2 ounces Kefalotyri cheese.
  6. Bake until bubbling around the edges and browned on top, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

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