Pastitsio is one of the most worldwide popular and controversial Greek recipes. The origin of this delicious Greek baked ziti is probably Italian, then revisited by the famous chef Nikolaos Tselementes under the influence of the French cuisine. Here the traditional recipe and the history of Pastitsio!
- 2 lb (900 g) ground meat (beef+lamb)
- 2 red onions
- 1 carrot
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp double concentrated tomato paste
- 2 cups (450 g) tomatoes puree
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1/2 cup (50 g) Kefalotiri cheese
- to taste table salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 quart (1 Lt) whole milk
- 7 tbsp (100 g) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp (100 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 cloves
- 1 dash grated nutmeg
- 3 yolks
- 3/4 cup (75 g) Kefalotiri cheese
- to taste table salt
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 1 Lb (450 g) Greek ziti
- 2 eggs
- 1cup (100 g) Kefalotiri cheese
- to taste table salt
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ORIGIN OF GREEK PASTITSIO
Pastitsio is one of the Greek recipes that most received influences and contaminations from other European cuisines, particularly from France and Italy.
Likely, the first version of Greek Pastitsio, and even the name, comes from the Italian culinary tradition.
The name of the Italian dish that influenced the Greek Pastitsio is the Pasticcio di Maccheroni: a Renaissance recipe originated in the Grand Duchy of Ferrara and quickly became popular on the tables of the Italian Nobles.
Starting from the 13th Century until the decline of the Republic dated the 18th Century, the Republic of Venice occupied vast areas of the Balkan and Greek coasts, including some Cycladic islands, Negroponte, and part of Peloponnesus.
Probably, during this time, the Venetian chefs imported the Pasticcio di Maccheroni in the conquered areas, from Croatia to Cipro. This has been caused by the creation of local recipes similar to the original Italian Pasticcio.
TSELEMENTES AND THE CONTEMPORARY PASTITSIO
Nikolaos Tselementes is a former chef, and probably the most important and discussed innovator of Modern Greek cuisine.
Tselementes has been influenced by the Greek culinary cuisine of the first part of the 20th Century, thanks to his magazine Odigos Mageirikis (Cooking guide).
The magazine had been a significant influence thank a new approach: not just recipes, but also nutritional advice, culinary stories, and a window a spirit of open-mindedness in matters of foreign cuisines, mainly French, considered at that time the most international and appreciated by the International Upper-level class scene.
Tselementes international vocation was due to his training. Son of a Greek chef, Nikolaos, started to cook in the family restaurant in Athens.
After that, he studied International cuisine in Wien, and then Tselementes was hired in some of the International Embassies in Athens.
Finally, from 1919 until 1932, Tselementes worked in the United States, cooking for several International restaurants.
In 1920 Tselementes published his most famous and controversial book, “Cooking and Patisserie Guide,” that has been a massive influence on several Greek chefs.
This book also has been caused much discussion for the Tselementes judgment on traditional Greek cuisine.
He considered the culinary tradition of his own country too much influenced by the Turkish cuisine, and his book intended to bring Greek cuisine to the origin with a modern French touch.
In Nikolas Tselementes recipes, we find an abundance of Bechamel, a lack of olive oil replaced y tons of butter and cream, and an aversion to herbs and garlic.
Among hundreds of recipes, two of Nikolas Tselementes recipes are still famous and worldwide known: Moussaka and Pastitsio.
Even if, internationally, the Trelementes Pastitsio version is the most known and appreciated, likely the closest version of original Pastitsio is the Pastitsio Venetsianiko: a recipe originating on the island of Kythira, made with ingredients and flavor typical of the Italian Renaissance cuisine.
Pastitsio Venetsianiko is traditionally prepared for the first Sunday of Carnival, and made with pasta seasoned with veal sauce, cloves, and cinnamon. The pasta is enveloped with a layer of shortbread flavored with orange juice and baked.
INTERNATIONAL PASTITSIO VARIATIONS
Besides the Greek Pastitsio, the Mediterranean basin cuisines are rich in recipes inspired by the Pasticcio di Maccheroni.
For Instance, in Cyprus, we find a special recipe traditionally prepared for the Easter festivity or for the wedding gatherings, called makarónia tou foúrnou in Greek and fırında makarna in Turkish. The pasta is baked along with a white pork sauce flavored with parsley, cinnamon, and Halloumi or Anari cheese crumbles.
The Egyptian version is made whit Penne pasta, spicy meat, onions, and béchamel.
Finally, in Malta a dish named Timpana (a word that likely derives from the Italian Timballo) is very similar to the Pastitsio Venetsianiko: Maccheroni, red veal sauce, eggs, and cheese are wrapped into pie crust, then baked.
TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS
LAYERS – 3 different layers compose the typical Greek Pastitsio: the first one is pasta, the second is meat sauce, and the top layer is Bechamel. The thickness of each layer is different depending on the taste. Some chefs prefer to add an additional layer of pasta.
MEAT – even if some chefs use exclusively ground beef, I prefer a mixture of lamb and beef to obtain a bold flavor.
CHEESE – Kefalotiri cheese is a critical ingredient of Greek Pastitsio and nowadays easy to find online. A decent substitution is a sheep or goat sharp cheese like Pecorino.
EGGS AND PASTA – some chefs prefer to season the pasta just with cheese, but adding eggs, I found the flavor and the texture better.
ONIONS AND BECHAMEL – some add onions to the béchamel some not, I prefer do not to maintain a pure milky flavor.
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PASTITSIO MEAT SAUCE
ASSEMBLING THE PASTITSIO LAYERS
BAKING AND SERVING
Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 897Total Fat 57gSaturated Fat 24gTrans Fat 2gUnsaturated Fat 28gCholesterol 293mgCarbohydrates 39gFiber 3gSugar 3gProtein 52g
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