Food & dining

Seasonal Recipe

Recipe for pastitsio

Karoline Boehm Goodnick for The Boston Globe

Serves 6

From the book “Greek Cooking,” published in 1987, comes this classic pastitsio, a baked dish made with layers of ground meat sauce, cheese-flavored white sauce, and pasta. Make the components in advance, if you like, then assemble the dish and bake just before serving. Agatha Vardoulias McMahon of Franklin, mother of features producer Alexa McMahon, makes this dish when her parents visit from Long Island. Her mother is called Yia Yia (Greek for grandmother) by her grandchildren; when she makes it, she lightens the dish with ground turkey.


¼cup olive oil
3tablespoons butter
2pounds ground beef
2medium onions, grated
3large ripe tomatoes, cored and grated
1teaspoon ground cinnamon
½cup water
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and when it is hot, add the butter. Brown the beef and onions, stirring often, for 5 minutes.


2. Add the tomatoes, cinnamon, water, salt, and pepper. Stir well, lower heat, and set on the cover askew. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until sauce thickens.

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Butter (for the dish)
5tablespoons butter
½cup flour
cups whole milk
2eggs, lightly beaten
¾cup grated Parmesan or kefalotiri cheese
Salt, to taste
1tablespoon olive oil
13ounces macaroni or penne
½cup extra Parmesan (for topping)
½teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Set oven at 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in the flour until the mixture forms a smooth paste. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

3. Gradually whisk the eggs into the sauce until thoroughly combined. Add the Parmesan or kefalotiri with salt. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the cheese melts.


4. In a large pot of boiling salted water, add the olive oil. Cook the macaroni or penne, stirring several times, for 8 minutes or until it is almost tender (it will cook more later).

5. Add a layer of cream sauce to the baking dish. Spread half the pasta on top and stir slightly so the pasta is coated with sauce. Add the meat sauce, the remaining pasta, and the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the extra cheese and cinnamon.

6. Bake the dish for 45 minutes or until it is browned on top and bubbling at the edges. Let the mixture settle for 5 minutes before serving. Agatha Vardoulias McMahon. Adapted from “Greek Cooking”