After all, who doesn't like Greek food?
Except this recipe doesn't contain any of the traditional things we Americans think of when someone mentions Greek food. No olives. No Feta cheese. No artichokes.
But flavor? Oh yes, this has the fabulous flavor I look for in Greek dishes - even Americanized ones like this.
This recipe is more complex than most of the meals I make, but it's still quite easy to make, and worth the extra steps!
Easy Greek Patitsio
The first layer is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Cook 1 1/2 cups penne pasta until al dente. You want it done, but slightly firm.
Mix the cooked penne with 1 Tablespoon melted butter and 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese.
Spread the pasta/cheese combo in the bottom of a 9" square baking dish.
For the next layer, brown 1 pound ground beef, drain, then return to the pan. Add 2 Tablespoons minced onion and 2 cloves minced garlic. Cook and stir until the onion and garlic are soft. You'll know they're done when they release their delicious aroma.
Now add 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Make that a scant 1/4 teaspoon of the cinnamon. You don't want to taste the cinnamon in this dish - you want just enough to add a rich depth to the flavor.
Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, or until heated through.
Spoon the meat over your pasta/cheese layer.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese over the meat.
For the final layer, you're going to make a Bechamel sauce. That's basically a rich white sauce. This version includes an egg.
First, make a roux from 1/4 cup butter, 1/3 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
To make a roux, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour/salt slowly, and lower the heat if the butter starts to brown. When it looks like the picture above, let it cook over low heat for about one minute.
Add 2 cups milk v-e-r-y slowly. Use a whisk, and add the milk a few Tablespoons at a time, increasing the amount you add as the roux becomes thinner and starts turning into a sauce.
Once all the milk is added, lightly beat an egg in a small bowl. Add some of the hot sauce to the egg, whisking it together thoroughly, then add the egg/sauce mixture to the rest of the sauce. Continue to whisk constantly, turn the heat up a little, and bring to a gentle boil. Once the sauce is boiling, continue to cook and stir for about 2 minutes.
Pour the sauce over the meat mixture and add another 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
Now the hard part is done!
Cover the dish and bake it at 350° for 20 minutes.
Remove the cover and bake for an additional 35-40 minutes, until lightly browned.
This was so good!
You can also double the recipe and bake it in a 9"x13" pan.
The square pan serves 6, the 9"x13" would serve 12.
You may ask why I'm so partial to Greek food...the Greek language...the Greek landscape...
I could blame it on John Stamos, but I won't :)
Actually, I blame it on a dear pastor friend of ours who was from Greece. He taught us the correct way to pronounce Nicodemus, and I still hear his voice when I write "Isaiah." Good memories. :)