We have always referred to this dish as “lasagna,” because it uses lasagna noodles, but it is technically called “pastitsio.” Sometimes pastitsio uses other kinds of pasta, but if you use lasagna as your pasta it seems like sort of like a lasagna, but I like the béchamel sauce better than the ricotta cheese that a typical lasagna usually incorporates.
This is a somewhat time-consuming recipe, but my husband and children especially lovs it, so every once in a while I allocate the better part of a day to making this for them. Luckily, it lasts for several meals, so it ends up being an investment of time that pays off over the following couple of days. My mother-in-law makes it a little differently each time; she does not have an exact recipe that she follows religiously. Over the years, she has suggested several variations. I have taken her ideas and recorded them here, integrating them with my own measurements and proportions and a couple of ingredients that make this recipe my own version. Usually I use shredded mozzarella only in this dish, but this time I used fresh mozzarella on top, which changes its appearance but is delicious. Try it either way!
This makes enough tomato sauce and béchamel sauce for 2 casseroles. I use a Zyliss grater for the parmigiano reggiano that has a handle to turn and easily grate parmesan cheese. So I just put a chunk of cheese in it and grate it directly over the casserole. I used an extra large pyrex dish (11” x 15”) for one and a loaf pan for a small second one. You could make two 9” x 13” casseroles instead. If you want to freeze one, you should bake it first, let it cool, then wrap it tightly in aluminum foil before putting it in the freezer.
Tomato Sauce (recipe below)
Bechamel Sauce (recipe below)
approximately 2 lbs. lasagna no-bake noodles
chunk of parmigiano reggiano
approximately 1-2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 - 8 oz. balls fresh mozzarella (or you can use additional shredded mozzarella instead)
3 small/medium onions, chopped
2 green peppers, diced
4 TBS olive oil
4 TBS butter
3 cloves garlic, pressed
salt, pepper and cumin to taste
3 lbs. ground beef
2 28 oz. containers of chopped tomatoes or use 6-8 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
6 oz. can tomato paste
1 TBS dried basil
1 TBS dried oregano
½ cup wine or red vermouth (I used white wine this time because it was already opened, but sometimes I use red wine)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp red chili pepper
1 cup raisins, optional
Melt butter and olive oil over low heat in dutch oven. Raise temperature to medium. Saute onion until translucent. Add green peppers and cook for a couple more minutes, then add garlic and stir. Add ground beef. Sprinkle salt, pepper and a touch of cumin over the meat and stir over high heat until meat is brown. Spoon out fat. Add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, basil, wine, salt, pepper, red chii pepper and stir. Add raisins if desired. Simmer for at least 30 minutes.
6 TBS butter
12 TBS flour
1 large shallot (or 2-3 small shallots), chopped fine
1 ½ cup heavy cream
3 ½ cup milk
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp black or white pepper
Melt butter over low heat in a large saucepan. Saute shallots until they are translucent. Raise heat to medium. Stir in flour a little at a time, stirring continuously. Cook for a few minutes while stirring. Gradually pour in cream and milk a little at a time while stirring continuously. Continue to stir until sauce thickens. Add salt, nutmeg and pepper.
Preheat oven to 350°. To assemble lasagna, layer the following in a baking dish:
On the bottom, put a thin layer of tomato sauce.
Next, put a layer of lasagna noodles.
Then put a layer of tomato sauce.
Then put a layer of béchamel sauce.
Sprinkle a thin layer of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese and a thin layer of grated mozzarella cheese.
Repeat twice with a layer of noodles, tomato sauce, béchamel sauce, and two cheeses. On the top layer, use a layer of sliced fresh mozzarella instead of shredded mozzarella if desired.
Bake for about 45 minutes, until brown and bubbly on top.