Pasticcio is a Greek lasagna style baked pasta dish with layers of bucatini noodles, rich, meaty bolognese and creamy bechamel sauce. Make this pastitsio recipe for a comforting meal!
Baked pasta dishes could be considered the culinary equivalent of a warm blanket on a cold day; they're comforting and reliable.
I don't know about you, but I can always count on a warm plate of macaroni noodles, sauce, and cheese to make me feel cozy and loved.
Even better, no matter where you travel along the Silk Road, there’s sure to be a regional pasta recipe for you to try.
Cuisine: Mediterranean / Greek
Do yourself a favor and order a fregola salad with grilled halloumi, and of course, pastichio.
Alternate Names and Spellings: pastitsio, pasticcio, pastichio, Greek lasagna
Pronunciation: pa - stEE - she - o
Recipe Difficulty: Easy 🥄
Long, tubular pasta noodles, meaty bolognese sauce spiced with cinnamon, and cheesy bechamel sauce layered in a baking dish. The top of the casserole is covered with a layer of shredded cheese, then baked.
Pasticcio vs Lasagna
Although making a pastitsio recipe is similar to making a traditional Italian lasagna, one look at the ingredients and it’s pretty obvious that the two dishes are quite different.
Despite the different ingredients, because the dishes look similar, some people like to call it a Greek lasagna.
Pastitsio Recipe Video
To see the entire process of cooking and assembling this delicious baked pasta dish, watch the video in the recipe card at the bottom of this post!
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Meat Sauce (Bolognese)
The majority of the ingredients in the Greek bolognese are the same as you'd find in an Italian meat sauce; garlic, tomatoes, diced onion, bay leaf, and red wine.
The unique ingredients that make the flavor shine are cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. They lend depth of flavor and deliver an amazing aroma! In a pinch, you could probably use ground spices as a substitute, but try to avoid that; the flavor from whole spices is more potent.
MEAT OPTIONS: This pastitsio recipe uses lean ground beef, but any ground meat of your choice may be substituted. In Greece, many people use a combination of beef and veal.
White Cheese Sauce (Greek Bechamel)
Bechamel is one of the five basic French mother sauces, meaning other ingredients are added to the basic sauce to create secondary sauces. In this case, bechamel is the mother and the addition of shredded cheese turns it into a secondary sauce.
Greek bechamel (spelled besamel in Greece) is a bit different than the French version. Eggs are added to Greek bechamel to give it a nice light yellow color. Those eggs, plus extra flour, make the sauce much thicker than other cheese sauces.
NOTE: The bechamel should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. You'll know it's ready when you can run your finger through it to create a solid strip.
Traditionally, pasticcio cheese sauce is made with shredded Kefalotyri cheese. It's a pasteurized Greek cheese made from goat and sheep's milk. If you're unable to find Kefalotyri in your local grocery store, you can use an unpasteurized Greek cheese called Kasseri. Other good melting Greek cheeses are Mizithra and Graviera.
SUBSTITUTIONS: If none of those options are available, you can use Asiago, fresh Gouda, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or even Monterey Jack.
The unique pasta used in Greek lasagna is essentially a thicker version of Italian bucatini. The long tubes are hollow, which allows sauce to seep inside. This is a MUCH better option than using sheets of lasagna noodles! You'll want to use Pastitsio No. 2 pasta noodles if possible.
Good substitutes for pastitsio pasta include the thinner, Italian bucatini, mostaccioli, or any smooth (without ridges) tubular pasta.
Assembling the Pastichio
Assembling the Greek pasta dish is pretty straightforward:
- Noodles mixed with feta cheese and egg whites on the bottom of a greased pan
- Cover pasta with a layer of bolognese
- Add a layer of Greek bechamel
- Top with shredded cheese
Similar to a traditional lasagna, there are people who like to add an additional layer of noodles and sauce. Feel free to do so, but you'll need to cook twice as many noodles and double the amount of ingredients for the sauces.
Pastitsio Recipe Notes
- Cook the pasta al dente to prevent it from becoming mushy. Just cook for 2 minutes less than the package instructions state and you'll be fine.
- Allow the baked pasta to rest for 15 minutes before slicing. This will help you cut the slices cleaner.
Greek Lasagna FAQ
Just like most other baked pasta recipes, pastichio can be made up to two days ahead of time, either fully prepared and baked or unbaked.
Pasticcio (Greek Lasagna) + Video
- 15 oz Pastitsio No. 2 pasta (Greek bucatini) (See Note 1)
- 4 oz feta cheese crumbled
- 2 egg whites
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 1 large red onion finely chopped (2 cups)
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 14 oz chopped tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¾ cup dry red wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 whole clove
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Greek Bechamel Sauce
- ½ cup butter
- ¾ cup all purpose flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg freshly grated (preferably)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 oz Kefalotyri Greek cheese finely shredded - divided (Note 2)
- 2 egg yolks
- Place a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the olive oil, onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste and the ground beef. Break up the meat with a spoon and brown for 5 minutes.
- Pour in the red wine, cook until evaporated. Add the tomatoes, sugar, cinnamon stick, clove, bay leaf and season. Bring to the boil, then simmer covered for about 30 minutes until liquid is mostly gone. Sauce should be thick. Discard the bay leaf, clove and cinnamon stick. Let cool to room temperature.
Greek Bechamel Sauce
- In a large saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. Add the flour, whisking continuously to form a paste. Slowly add the warm milk, whisking to prevent lumps. Whisk until the sauce is smooth and thick, cooking for 5 minutes. The bechamel should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. You'll know it's ready when you can run your finger through it to create a solid strip.
- Remove from heat and add a pinch salt, black pepper, nutmeg and 2 ounces of the Kefalotyri cheese. Whisk until smooth. Let cool 5 minutes and whisk in egg yolks. Cover and set aside.
- Cook the pasta 2-3 minutes less than the package instructions, so it doesn't get mushy after baking. Drain, then return to the pot. Allow to cool for 3 minutes and stir in the egg whites and feta cheese and mix gently with a spatula.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Use olive oil or butter to coat the bottom and sides of a deep pan. Use either a 2.75" deep 9x13" baking dish or a larger 10x15" baking pan. Layer the pasta on bottom (spreading to even layer with spatula), top with the meat sauce (again spreading to even layer with spatula) then top with the bechamel sauce (again spreading to even layer with spatula). Sprinkle remaining 2 ounces of shredded Kefalotyri cheese over the top.
- Bake for 40 minutes, until crust turns a light golden brown. Allow pastitsio to cool down before slicing and serving.
- You may substitute the thinner Italian bucatini for the pastitsio pasta or even use penne or ziti. Just be sure the pasta is smooth, without any ridges.
- You may substitute Mizithra (a Greek whey cheese or mixed milk-whey cheese from sheep or goats) or a Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.