Athens Market Cafe's Pastitsio
8 to 10 servings
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 large Spanish onion, chopped
1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound penne pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 egg whites
1 cup grated kefalograviera cheese (see note)
1/4 cup butter
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups scalded milk
2 egg yolks, beaten
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons fine bread crumbs
To prepare the meat: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add the onion
and saute until light brown. Add the meat and cook, stirring and breaking it up
with a wooden spoon, until meat is browned and all liquid has evaporated.
Add the wine, parsley, mint, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and allspice
and mix well. Turn off the fire, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
Combine water and tomato paste and stir into beef mixture. Bring to a boil and
let simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
To prepare pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt.
Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender.
Remove pasta from heat, strain and rinse under cold water. In the pot the pasta
was cooked in, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Toss in the pasta and stir. Whip egg
whites with an electric mixer until stiff. Pour them over pasta and sprinkle
with grated kefalograviera cheese. Mix well.
To prepare bechamel sauce: Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan. Stir in
flour and cook over low heat for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not brown.
Pour in warm milk slowly while stirring. Cook over low heat, stirring
constantly, until sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Turn off heat and stir in
beaten egg yolks with a whisk. Add nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking
dish. Place half the pasta in the pan, distributing evenly. Top with all of the
meat, then the rest of the pasta. Pour the bechamel sauce evenly over the
casserole. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is
Note: Kefalogravieria cheese, a Greek sheep's milk cheese, Kasseri cheese can be
substituted. Some pastitsio recipes suggest parmesan cheese as a substitute, but
the result would be less authentic.