Lamb Pastitsio


for the sauce:
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 3/4 lb ground lamb
28 oz canned whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon crushed rosemary
4 sprigs worth of thyme leaves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons merlot vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

for the pasta:
1 lb ziti (or if you can find it, Macaroni Pastitsio no. 2)
3 egg whites, beaten
3 tablespoons grated kefalotyri cheese (or Parmesan)

for the béchamel:
5 tablespoons butter
4 cups milk
1/2 cup flour
3 egg yolks, beaten
3/4 cup grated kefalotyri cheese (or Parmesan)
pinch nutmeg
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Saute the onion and garlic in (Greek!) olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the lamb and continue to saute until the lamb is fully cooked, breaking up any large pieces as it cooks. Drain off excess fat. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta to slightly less than al dente. Allow to cool, then toss with the egg whites and cheese. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter for the béchamel. Whisk in the flour and when smooth, add the milk. Whisk to incorporate the flour mixture. Cook on low, whisking occasionally until thickened. Remove from heat. Whisk in remaining ingredients. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.

Pour half of the pasta into a 2 1/2 quart casserole. Top with half of the meat sauce. Press the mixture down firmly and make sure the sauce goes to each edge. Top with half of remaining pasta then all of the remaining sauce. Arrange the remaining pasta on top of the sauce and then top with the béchamel.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the béchamel is golden. Loosely tent with foil and allow to sit 20-30 minutes prior to serving.

My thoughts:

I’ve seen pastitsio described as “Greek lasagna” and it is sort of apt (although “Greek Baked Ziti” would be even more so) but does sort of downplay how tasty the dish on its own. It is a substantial dish, full of meat and cheese and eggs but oddly, the finished dish isn’t terribly heavy. Not picnic food but not a “I need to take a nap after this” dish by any means. It is wonderfully savory with a rich sauce. I think it was even better the next day than it was fresh, a great trait if you need a make-ahead dinner option. There are a few steps but each is easy, I promise. Perfect for a weekend meal or special occasion.


  1. Mostly Food and Crafts

    This is on my cooking bucket list – one of my favorites.

  2. Make it! It is easier than it looks.

  3. For some reason, all those open tubes are freaking me out.

  4. I think that is a common phobia!

  5. Cook In / Dine Out

    That's a very impressive looking dish. The spice mix sounds interesting.