To prep this ahead, assemble the pastitsio completely and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months. If frozen, thaw before baking. (Adapted from Ina Garten’s “Make It Ahead,” Clarkson Potter, 2013.)
Per serving: 660 calories; 350 calories from fat (53 percent of total calories); 39 g fat (19 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 170 mg cholesterol; 40 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 35 g protein; 1670 mg sodium.
- Good olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups chopped)
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 pound lean ground lamb
- 1/2 cup dry red wine, such as Cotes du Rhone
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in thick puree
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 7 ounces plain Greek yogurt
- 12 ounces small pasta shells
- 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
IN a large pot over medium-high, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes.
ADD the beef and lamb and sauté over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, crumbling it with a wooden spoon, until it’s no longer pink. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme and cayenne, and continue cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes.
ADD the tomatoes and their liquid, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the liquid evaporates. Set aside.
HEAT the oven to 350 degrees.
FOR the bechamel, in a small saucepan over medium-low, heat the milk and cream until simmering. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk mixture into the butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly. Continue whisking over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes, until thick and smooth. Add the nutmeg, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Stir in 3/4 cup of the Parmesan and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the yogurt and set aside.
MEANWHILE, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta shells and cook until al dente, according to the package instructions. Don’t overcook the pasta; it will be baked later. Drain and set aside.
TO assemble, combine the pasta with the meat and tomato sauce, then stir in the eggs. Pour the mixture into an 11-by-15-inch baking dish. Spread the bechamel evenly over the pasta and sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 cup of Parmesan. Bake for 1 hour, until golden brown and bubbly. Set aside for 10 minutes and serve hot.
Yield: 10 servings.