I love going to my Yiayia’s house. I love visiting her, my aunties and uncles and, of course, all my cousins. I’m very quiet and they’re very loud. It’s an experience.
When we were younger my Yiayia always made up, what me and my sister described as, The Princess Bed. It was beautiful, hence the name. Something else also did while we were growing up (and still sometimes now) was Makaronia tou Fournou (Pastitsio). It’s a Greek dish that’s very similar to a Lasagne in that you layer pasta and meat. I do love Lasagne, but this dish is incredible.
One day, a few years back, I decided I wanted to make this dish. So set out in search of a recipe. I found one here: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/greek-pastitsio-100793#activity-feed
I’ve made one or two tweaks over the years, purely by watching what my Yiayia does when she makes it. Nothing can beat my Yiayia’s cooking, but I’m always very proud when I make this. Weirdly, it was the first proper dish I learned how to cook (aside from Tuna Pasta and other basics, not exactly proper though!).
Melted Butter (3 tbsp)
Milk (1/3 cup)
Ground Beef (1lb) – optional, you can also add Ground Pork (500g each beef and pork)
Onion (chopped, 1/2)
Tomato sauce (400g / 1 tin. Or the Dolmio tomato and basil is a decent substitute)
Salt (1 tsp)
Dried mint flakes (1 tsp)
Cinnamon (1/2 tsp)
Nutmeg (1/2 tsp)
Pepper (1/2 tsp)
Butter (4 tbsp)
Plain (or All Purpose) flour
Salt (1/4 tsp)
Milk (2 cups)
Egg (1, beaten)
More Grated Halloumi
The pasta, you’ll need enough to fill the dish for a bottom layer, and then a second layer. The halloumi cheese, the amount is completely optional. If you don’t like Halloumi the recipe linked uses parmesan however, halloumi is what I grew up with and I think it’s delicious, so that’s what I use.
While I don’t put Pork in my dish I know a lot of families do. This dish is one where each family has their own recipe and method.
Speaking of which…
- Cook the bucatini pasta
Stir in 3tbsp melted butter, 1/3 (or any amount you enjoy) Halloumi, 1/3 cup milk and 1 egg. Set aside.
- In a skillet or large saucepan cook the ground meat and onion until the beef is no longer pink and onions are soft. Drain any excess fat (I tend to use 5% so there isn’t much however, depending on what percentage you use there will be more).
- Stir in tomato sauce, salt, mint flakes, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and set aside.
- In a saucepan melt 4tbsp butter, mix in salt and flour.
Then, very quickly, slowly stir in 2 cups milk. Stirring well after each addition so that no lumps form.
(Very quickly then slowly is a contradiction, I know. BUT! The first time I made this I had to start section 4 again because I tried butter, flour, then salt, then milk. It did not work for me. I find that butter, then salt, then flour, then milk already to hand does the job nicely).
- Cook and stir on medium high until the sauce starts to thicken.
It will, I promise. It may not look like it will, I’ve been there but trust me, after a while you’ll see the efforts of your labour (or efforts of your waiting around moving a wooden spoon in a circle…).
Stir for one more minute then remove from heat.
- Beat an egg into the bowl then stir into the pasta. Also stir in some more Halloumi cheese.
- Layer half the pasta into a baking dish.
Now, some people in my family like to take each strand of pasta and lay it out neatly. You can do that, I know a lot of people prefer it that way. But I much prefer to just take the pasta, shove it in the dish and spread it out. There’s no missing section, but there also isn’t ages spent straightening it out. (Just to give a brief picture, it’d be like straightening each strand of spaghetti or penne. NAH!).
- Spoon meat mixture evenly onto pasta.
(make sure you cook enough. Often I don’t and now I’ve taken to doing more than I think I’ll need. The meat will still get used because usually I need it all).
Then the remaining pasta (again, you can layer or you can just spread so it covers all of the meat)
- Pour the cream sauce to cover completely.
- Here’s an additional step, and something I saw my Yiayia do growing up. Take your remaining halloumi and scatter it over the cream sauce mixture. It creates a nice crispy topping and helps to keep it all together.
- Bake, uncovered, at 450 degrees F. (230 degrees C. or Gas Mark 8 according to Google. Not going to lie, I usually just guess) and cook for 40 minutes.
- Let stand for 10 minutes.
And then you’re done! You can eat this wonderfully delicious dish, and one of my favourites! This is great for a family evening, and then leftovers galore! Or when you have a lot of people coming over and you need a nice, decent sized dish that everyone can enjoy (which is when I recently made it).
I hope that if you make this dish you enjoy it!
What are your favourite dishes to make around this time of year? (or any time of year! This recipe is good all year round!)