Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pastitsio Kima: Baked Macaroni

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If I had to name the most comforting Greek dish, for me it would have to be Pastitsio. It's very similar to Italian baked mostaccioli but I like to think that Pastitsio has much more to offer. This dish takes a hearty tomato sauce (made with ground beef, seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg) tossed with pasta, and then is topped with a rich, cheesy bechamel sauce before baking to perfection. The use of cinnamon and nutmeg really adds some depth to the sauce and more nutmeg is added to the cheesy bechamel. This is one dish that I recommend for times you want a comforting pasta dish, different from the usual Italian recipes.

Pastitsio Kima (Baked Macaroni)
recipe from Cat Cora


1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup red wine
3/4 cup tomato puree
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, ground, plus more, for seasoning
1 1/2 pound mostaccioli pasta
2 tablespoons butter
3 eggs, separated (yolks to be used in bechamel sauce)
1/2 cup kefalotyri or kasseri, grated*

Bechamel:
1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 quarts milk, warmed
1 cup kefalotyri or kasseri, grated*
Nutmeg

*Kefalotyri or kasseri cheese is a specific Greek cheese. You can look for it at a Greek or International grocery store and it can also be found at specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods. If you cannot find these cheeses in your area, you can substitute with Parmesan cheese.

Brown beef in a pan. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Deglaze with the red wine and reduce to 2 tablespoons. Add the garlic and onions to the pan and saute until softened.Add the tomato puree and crushed tomatoes to pan. Season with salt, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Cook macaroni in salted water: drain and place in a large bowl. Add butter, egg whites and 1/2 cup of cheese, mix well. Add the tomato beef sauce to the noodles and stir to combine. Place in a baking dish.


In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour until well blended. Whisk in warm milk. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook until fairly thick. Season with salt and nutmeg, to taste. Temper in the egg yolks and take off the heat. Add 1 cup of cheese and whisk until melted and combined.

In a buttered 13 by 9-inch baking dish, layer macaroni mixture and meat sauce, and cover with bechamel sauce. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven to rack and let stand for 15 minutes. Cut into squares.

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