This Greek dish of baked meat, pasta and sauce is filling and warming like a spicy richer version of lasagne but made with chunky pasta.
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
700g (1¼ -1½ pounds) minced (ground) beef
100ml (about 3½ fluid ounces) dry red wine
1 x 400g (15-ounce) can crushed Italian tomatoes
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tbsp tomato concentrate
¼ tsp chilli flakes
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g (about 1 pound) chunky pasta like rigatoni
1 Tbsp olive oil
50g (about 3 Tbsp) unsalted butter
5 Tbsp standard flour
500ml (about 17 fluid ounces) milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
1½ cups grated vintage cheddar cheese
1 large (size 7) free-range egg, lightly beaten
1 To make the meat sauce, heat olive oil in a large frying pan (skillet) and add onion. Cook gently for 10 minutes, until tender and lightly coloured; be careful not to let it burn. Add garlic and cook for a minute or two more. Increase heat and add minced (ground) beef, pushing onion to the side of the pan while beef browns. Cook mince until no longer pink, stirring to break it up. Add wine and let it evaporate for a few minutes, then add remaining ingredients and ¾ of a teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. Bring to a gentle boil. Cook gently for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until thick.
2 Cook pasta in plenty of gently boiling, well-salted water until three-quarters cooked (do not over-cook as it continues cooking in the oven). Drain and toss through olive oil.
3 To make the cheese sauce, melt butter in a saucepan, take pan off heat, stir in flour, then whisk in a little milk and mix to a thick cream. Blend in the rest of the milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and gently bubbling. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring. Season with a good grating of nutmeg and ¾ of a teaspoon of salt. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in ½ a cup of cheddar, then cover pan with a lid. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes before whisking in the egg.
4 Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F). Have ready a large buttered ovenproof dish (32cm x 23cm and 5–6cm deep/ about 13” x 9” and 2” deep). Put half the pasta in the dish, then all the meat sauce, the rest of the pasta, and the cheese sauce on top. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top. Rest pastitso for 10 minutes before serving.
The meat sauce can be made a day or two in advance. Cool it quickly, transfer to a covered bowl and refrigerate. It can also be frozen.
Read the notes on cooking pasta here.
You could make this in individual deep ovenproof dishes if preferred, or two deepish gratin dishes.
Use a good tasty cheddar, not a high-fat cheese or the top may become oily.
Photography Aaron McLean http://www.aaronmclean.com