“Don’t Call It Pastitsio” Baked Macaroni

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“Don’t Call It Pastitsio” Baked Macaroni I have a good Cypriot friend whom I consulted while refining our pastitsio recipe. Every conversation began like this: I’m going to make pastitsio, let’s chat. Don’t call it pastitsio. It’s makarónia tou foúrnou, baked pasta! Well, isn’t this one special? Don’t you have many other baked pasta dishes in Cyprus? Yes, it is special, so we call this one makarónia tou foúrnou, and have other names for the other ones. But why not call pastitsio pastitsio? Because we call it makarónia tou foúrnou. Dear reader, you and I now have the same level of understanding. Enjoy this pastitsio.

  • Yield: 8 to 10 Servings
  • Total Time: 2 Hours 15 Minutes

Ingredients

MEAT SAUCE:
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 lb ground beef, pork, or lamb
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 28-oz can pureed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 10 leaves mint, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¾ cup parsley, chopped, divided
PASTA:
  • 4 qt water
  • 1 lb penne (or other tube) pasta
  • 2 Tbsp salt
WHITE SAUCE:
  • 4 Tbsp (½ stick) butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
  • 2 eggs
How to Make It
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. To make the meat sauce, heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and cook until lightly browned around the edges, about 4–6 minutes. Add the meat, salt, and pepper. Continue to sauté, breaking up the meat with a spatula. Cook until the meat is no longer pink, about 6–8 minutes.
  3. Carefully pour in the tomatoes, add oregano, mint, garlic, cinnamon, ½ cup of parsley, and stir in evenly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the meat sauce while you cook the pasta and the white sauce.
  4. In a large pot, bring water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add pasta and salt. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the pasta does not stick to the pot. Drain the pasta, and rinse with cold water to ensure the pasta does not overcook. Set aside.
  5. As the pasta water comes to a boil and as the pasta cooks, make the white sauce. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add butter. When it melts completely, sprinkle in the flour and whisk to combine completely. Continue to whisk the mixture for 2 minutes.
  6. Slowly pour in the milk while continuing to whisk briskly, to ensure the sauce is smooth with no lumps. Stir in salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer, stirring occasionally for 8 minutes. Remove the mixture to a large mixing bowl, stir in sour cream, then the Parmesan cheese and eggs. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Coat the bottom and sides of a baking dish with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Give the pasta a good shake to get as much of the water off as possible. Pour the drained pasta evenly into the bottom of the baking dish.
  8. Next, pour the meat sauce evenly on top of the pasta. Finally, slowly pour the white sauce over the meat sauce evenly, making sure not to disturb the meat sauce too much, as you want a finished casserole in fairly distinct layers. .
  9. Transfer the baking dish to the oven, and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Allow the casserole to rest for 15-20 minutes before serving in blocks
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