Eff You, Lasagne! (Oxi Day + Pastitsio)

26 Oct

I nearly wrote a thesis entitled “Same Food, Different Name” about the appropriating, borrowing, and collaborating that has gone on between Mediterranean cultural kitchens for the past 20 centuries.  Take baklava for example–the Greeks do it with honey, Arabs with cheese, and Armenians with berries.  You can denote someone’s political leanings or family origin by the way they spell hummus/hommus/hommos.  And it’s no coincidence that tapas, meze, and cichetti are just a lot of words for very little food.

But this ain’t called “Cucina Kefi,” and as such, I’ve got to remind you that Greeks did it first, and we do it best.  This Friday (and every 28 Oct) marks Oxi Day, which celebrates Greek resistance to Italian and German occupation during WWII (Metaaxas:1 Mussolini: 0).  I thought about expounding on what this national holiday says about the Soul of Greeks, but I instead turn you to Mr. Panos (HYSTERICAL, but contains some totally-justified vulgarity):

And now– in celebration of Greeks telling those pasta-loving fascists where to stick it, I bring you a tricky treat: Pastitsio (or: Greek Lasagne)!

The Sauce
  • 1.5 lbs. ground beef (or minced lamb)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves (yes, you really need these. They make a big difference)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, pureed to make 1.5 c tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup  white wine
  • ¼ cup  extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste (which for me is next to none)
The Pasta
  • 1 lb. ziti
  • 2 tbsp  extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 egg whites, beaten (save yolks for next step)
  • ¼ cup grated Kefalotyri cheese (Parmesan okay if you can’t find this–but please no Kraft!)
The Béchamel Sauce
  • 4 cups scalded milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup grated Kefalotyri (Parmesan okay here too)
  • ½ cup butter (salted is better, but since I am a baker I rarely have salted and have been ok with unsalted)
  • 3 egg yolks (from eggs above), well beaten
  • 1 tsp  ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp black pepper
Assembly:
  1. Heat olive oil in a large pan and heat onions and garlic over medium heat until soft and fragrant. Add meat to the pan, break it up and stir constantly until the meat is completely brown and mixed in with the onions (~5 min)
  2. Throw in rosemary, wine, and tomato juice (+salt and pepper if you feel so inclined).  Allow this to boil and THEN add the bay leaves (again–it makes a big difference to add them now).  Turn heat down to med-low and cover with lid slight ajar (this allows some steam out). Stir occasionally and let it sit over med-low heat for about 30 minutes– you know it is ready because the meat will have absorbed the vast majority of liquid.  Once liquid is pretty much absobed, take out bay leave and move heat to warm.
  3. Cook pasta in boiling water until it’s ALMOST ready, but not quite.
  4. Now it is time for the bechamel sauce–this is the hard part but you can do it! Melting the butter in your deepest sauce pan over medium heat.  Once it’s melted, use a whisk to slooooowly incorpoate flour and WHISKING CONTINUOUSLY to avoid lumps. Once you have a lumpless flour-butter mixture, add slowly the hot milk AND KEEP STIRRING. When the milk has been added, remove heat, KEEP STIRRING and add the following IN THIS ORDER: cheese, nutmeg, pepper and egg yolks. You’ll know it’s set when it is smooth and mixed together well.  From here, you can leave it alone–but give it an occasional stir for good measure.
  5. Drain water from pasta, then return the pot to heat.  Add the 2 Tbs olive oil and mix it around well enough so that all the pasta has some oil on it (and won’t stick to pot).  Remove the pot from the heat and let cool for about 2 minutes.  Add the egg whites and remaining 1/4 c grated cheese to the pasta. Mix well.
  6. Grease a 9×13 glass baking dish. Cover bottom of dish with an even layer of about two-thirds of the pasta.
  7. Use meat sauce to make the middle layer–it’s important that this is evenly distributed–no holes!.
  8. Cover meat sauce with remaining pasta in–you guessed it!–an even layer.
  9. Pour bechamel sauce, covering as evenly as possible. Use every single drop you can get–this sauce is your money maker in this dish!
  10. Bake for approximately 30 minutes at 350, or until bechamel sauce is golden brown.
  11. Let cool before serving–then cut up and enjoy!

2 Responses to “Eff You, Lasagne! (Oxi Day + Pastitsio)”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Before/After | Cooking Up Kefi - May 3, 2013

    […] other news that is not as amazing as my pastitsio, my awesome friend Emmy (BennyBooKef? MaltLiquorLovingKef?) tipped me off to what is without a […]

  2. I Survived Greek Easter 2013 | Cooking Up Kefi - May 15, 2013

    […] Pastitsio                                                              παστιτσιο […]

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