While I’m covering the AT&T Pro Am at Pebble Beach this week, I’ve asked my good friend John from the Bartolini’s Kitchens to handle today’s food post. For those of you who are unfamiliar with John’s site, it’s mainly dedicated to the sharing of his family’s recipes as well as some of his personal favorites. I highly recommend you perusing and subscribing to his blog. Your recipe box will be fuller and your stomach happier…I know mine are.
Thank you for guest posting today John and the readers are yours…
Thanks, Jed. I’m glad to be of help. To your fan base, I think you’ll like the recipe I’m sharing today. It’s a Greek pasta recipe and, if you’re at all like me, when there’s pasta in the dish, I’m reaching for a plate.
So, Jed, you can go, secure in the knowledge that your place and followers are in good hands. And don’t you worry about Max. He’s fully house bro–.
Um … where are the paper towels again? You know what, just go. We’ll be fine.
Max! Get down from there! Take care, Jed. Have a good time. MAX!!!
On with the recipe…
It should come as no surprise to anyone that, sooner or later, my blog would feature today’s recipe, a Greek dish called pastitsio. Not only is it a pasta dish but its name is derived from the Italian word for mess, pasticcio (in our dialect, pastroccio). Certainly, the guy whose response to an Asian menu’s “Choice of Noodle” is always, without fail, “Vermicelli!” wouldn’t let a little thing like geography get in the way of a good pasta recipe. And make no mistake, this pastitsio is one good pasta recipe.
Limited today to the Ionian Peninsula and the islands that spread eastward across the Aegean, Greek culture once traversed trade routes covering the entire length and breadth of the Mediterranean. As a result, Greek cuisine represents a true melding of the flavors of the entire Mediterranean and today’s recipe, pastitsio, is where Middle East meets West. This dish relies upon cinnamon, garlic, and oregano to enhance a rich lamb and eggplant ragu, while utilizing cloves and garlic to mildly flavor a feta-enriched besciamella sauce. Split a pound of cooked penne between the 2 sauces, layer them (red on bottom, white on top), bake until bubbling throughout, and this is one “mess” of comfort that you’ll be making again and again.
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1 lb penne, divided in half
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 lb ground lamb (beef may be substituted)
- 1 eggplant (1 lb.), peeled & chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic, diced
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp AP Flour
- 2 cups whole milk, heated
- 2 whole cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 2 whole cloves
- 1/2 lb feta cheese, chopped or crumbled
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2 eggs
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Prepare Red Sauce
- Heat olive oil in a medium-sized sauce pan over med-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 – 8 minutes.
- Add lamb to the pan and continue to sauté until meat is browned and juices have evaporated.
- Add remaining red sauce ingredients, stir well, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer about 40 to 45 minutes or until eggplant is tender.
- Remove cover and continue to simmer for 10 minutes more.
- Cover and set aside.
Prepare Cheese Sauce
- Following package directions, cook penne until 2 minutes shy of al dente. Drain & reserve.
- At the same time, in a 2nd sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and stir until well combined.
- Add heated milk, garlic clove, and whole clove to the pan and whisk until smooth.
- Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and continue until thickened.
- Add feta cheese, salt & pepper and stir until cheese has melted and sauce is smooth.
- Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat slightly.
- Add a ladle of cheese mixture to the bowl with the eggs, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking. Add a 2nd ladle of the cheese sauce and continue whisking.
- The eggs are now sufficiently tempered. Add the rest of the cheese sauce to the egg mixture and whisk until well-blended. If possible, remove garlic and whole clove.
- Cover and set aside.
- Pre-heat oven to 425*
- Take half of the cooked penne, add it to the red sauce, and mix until well-coated.
- Add the other half of the penne to the cheese sauce and mix until well-coated.
- Grease a large baking dish and place all the red sauced penne on the bottom of the dish in an even layer.
- Place all the penne in cheese sauce into the baking dish atop the other penne in an even layer. (At this point, the dish may be covered and stored in the fridge, or freezer, for later cooking.)
- Place into a pre-heated oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, longer if you prefer a crunchier top (see photo above and Notes below).
- Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.
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If made as directed, this will fill a large baking dish, resulting in 8 servings. If you prefer, rather than fill one dish, fill smaller, oven-proof dishes, to be frozen and served at a later time. These can be either single serving-sized or whatever suits your needs.
Try to time it so that the white sauce and penne finish cooking at about the same time as the red sauce. Failing that, make sure the penne is the last thing to finish, keeping the 2 sauces covered until ready for use.
That oven-browned picture above resulted when I took too long removing the snow during our last storm. As a result, although superbly crunchy, the pastitsio was a bit dry. If you’re looking for that extra crunchy topping, I would suggest covering the dish in foil for the first 15 or 20 minutes of baking to reduce the amount of evaporation during the cooking process. Once uncovered, leave it to bake until the top is as brown & crunchy as you like.
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Inspired by: “Sara’s Secrets”, featuring Sara Moulton, recipe courtesy of Gourmet Magazine
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