My Big Fat Greek Casserole: Pastitsio

October 30th, 2008 by katie

We don’t make many casseroles in the Chaos household. I have nothing against them but the kids don’t eat well when their food is all mixed up together. This is one of the few casseroles that I do make. It is like a lasagna in that it is not a quick, one dish meal-it requires making different things then assembling the final dish, but it isn’t difficult and it makes a TON. I usually take the opportunity to divide this into two smaller casseroles then I store one in the freezer for another night. The great thing is leftovers are just as wonderful, and you will have plenty of them.

This is another Greek dish that I cannot vouch for its authenticity. I will tell you though not to freak out about the cinnamon stick. It is not like putting ground cinnamon in the dish-please don’t do that!-it just imparts a subtle warm, richness to the beef. Honestly I can’t taste it at all, the meat just tastes meatier. Daddy Chaos says he can taste it but not enough to freak him out, he told the kids it was Christmas meat.

I love pastitsio. The meat sauce is flavorful and rich and the bechamel covered noodles are light and creamy. The edges get chewy and browned-a requirement for any good casserole. Try this for the first time on a chilly weekend when cooking and baking seem like the perfect afternoon activity and I promise you’ll be hooked after the first bite.


serves 12, prep 1 hour, cook time 2 hours, adapted from Recipezaar

Meat Sauce

  • oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs ground beef, pork, lamb or combination
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1 tsp Greek oregano
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • salt and pepper


  • 1 lb small tubular pasta, i used mini penne
  • 8 tbsp butter melted
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bechamel Sauce

  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • pinch nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  1. Prepare meat sauce first. Heat oil in a large skillet and add onion. Cook until softened and add garlic.
  2. Add meat and cook until browned, breaking up chunks with a wooden spoon. Add remaining meat sauce ingredients, mix and simmer one hour, covered.
  3. While meat sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil then salt generously and add pasta.
  4. Cook pasta to al dente, drain and return to the cooled pot. With the heat off, stir in butter, milk, eggs and cheese. Set aside.
  5. Prepare bechamel sauce by melting butter over medium high heat in a large sauce pan or medium pot. Whisk in flour and cook for several minutes, whisking smooth, do not allow the roux to scorch.
  6. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly until thickened. If your milk is cool and sauce seems thin, bring to a boil stirring constantly then remove from heat once thick. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  7. Beat 3 eggs in a medium bowl for bechamel sauce: slowly add sauce to beaten eggs, being careful to keep from curdling the eggs. I usually start by tempering the eggs, that is I dip my whisk in the hot sauce then whisk those drops into the eggs, then continue doing this a few times before attempting to slowly dribble about a 1/4 cup of sauce into the bowl. Once you’ve gotten about that much successfully incorporated, you can go ahead and slowly add the rest.
  8. Remove the cinnamon stick from the meat, allow sauce to cool slightly and prepare casserole dishes.
  9. Grease a large lasagna pan or two medium casserole dishes with oil then construct pastitsio by layering: pasta mixture, meat sauce, more pasta mixture. Finish by covering with bechamel and sprinkling grated Parmesan over the top.
  10. Bake casserole at 350°F for approximately 45 min to 1 hour until bechamel is set and golden. I bake two casseroles and remove one at about 30 minutes. Allow it to cool then cover in plastic wrap then foil and place in the freezer for another dinner.
  11. Once casserole is nicely browned on top, remove from oven and allow to rest 20 minutes.
  12. Clean up kitchen, prepare steamed veggies or salad, then cut pastitsio into squares and serve.

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16 Responses

  1. My First Kitchen

    Looks delicious. I’ve heard of folks putting grape jelly in their meat sauces (I’m slightly afraid) to pull out the sweetness in the tomatoes. I’ve never heard the cinnamon stick trick though; I’m very intrigued.

  2. maris

    This sounds soo delicious and festive! I love apple cider but only have it once or twice a year. I’ve been on a homemade applesauce kick lately – so good!

  3. noble pig

    I bet this is so delicious and worth the effort!

  4. alexandra's kitchen

    I was just talking to my Greek auntie about making pastitsio for Thanksgiving week, when all of my Greek family will be convening at my mother’s house. You are so right about the cinnamon stick — it makes such a difference. your pastitsio is beautiful!

  5. Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary


    I’m sitting here with my mother in law who is here visiting and I have to tell you….we are seeing so many great recipes on your site! You might be seeing some on my blog soon! (Course I’ll give ya the link love). I just added you to my blog roll too. Great blog you have!

    P.S. The Pumpkin Roll is very doable! Just follow my tips and you can be rollin’ in no time!

    The Cutting Edge of Ordinary

  6. Aggie

    This looks delicious! I’ve never made pastitsio but have always wanted to.

  7. Barbi

    This looks really good and I am definitely going to try it. I just have one question, your ingredients say 3 eggs beaten for the Bechamel Sauce but you don’t say when to add them.

    Thanks Barbi! I added step #7 above, the sauce should be slowly whisked into the eggs. Thanks for pointing that out, and I hope you do give it a try-it’s a keeper! -Katie

  8. Barbi

    Thanks for updating it, this looks so yummy! I can’t wait to try it!

  9. Coby

    I adore pastitsio, in all it’s myriad variations, but I think the eggs in the white sauce (I often just use yolks), along with the sweetness of cinnamon (I can handle adding more ground:)) are what make it special in my book. I prefer lamb because it’s a sweeter meat, but wouldn’t turn down any other meaty version! So glad your family enjoy this particular ‘mixed together’ dish – I’d be lost if my family started turning away from my various bakes;)

    Your pastitsio looks fabulous – I just know I’d want to eat it ’till my tummy ached!

  10. katie

    Oh! I was just going through FoodGawker, thinking to myself that I wished they would have a recipe for pastitsio because I’d really love to make it this week…and then I clicked the next page and there was your recipe! So random but so awesome!

    Can’t wait to try making this…my boyfriend is from Egypt and has been requesting me to cook this for awhile…apparently it’s a family favorite.

  11. Ali

    I’ve never seen a casserole look so beautiful! I’ve always wanted to try making Greek food. This one is going on my list. Thanks!

  12. Cathy

    Can you tell me the recipe for 90 people for the Pastitso,?


  13. Freezer Meals | Hottie Biscotti

    […] Pastitsio – a layered Greek noodle dish with ground beef, tomatoes and bechamel sauce.  The beef layer is spiced with olives, oregano, cinnamon and oregano. […]

  14. Melissa

    I just made this tonight and it was fantastic! I halved the recipe and made a pan to freeze (just 2 of us eating). Between dinner (and seconds for both of us) and packing lunches for tomorrow, we crushed it! So glad I have a second pan ready to go. This was perfect for the cold snowy day we had here, and a day off work to spend a little time in the kitchen. Thanks!

  15. cj

    You pastitsio is the bomb – Would love to see this submitted to for everyone to see 🙂

  16. Pastitsio | Never Enough Thyme — Never Enough Thyme - Recipes with a slight southern accent.

    […] My Big Fat Greek Casserole: Pastitsio from Chaos in the Kitchen […]

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About chaos

cha·os -noun 1. a condition or place of great disorder or confusion. My chaotic kitchen is the result of three kids, two adults, dog, cat, and fish, a food obsession, a wine drinking hobby, and too few hours in the day. Between trying to feed a family of five healthy, happy meals, watching my weight, saving my pennies, and staying partially sane I have picked up a few tricks along the way. So here they are: the very best tips, tricks, and recipes from my chaotic kitchen-to yours!

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