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Greek Pastitsio Casserole
For Bechamel Sauce
6 tbsp. butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
1 quart whole milk, warmed
1 pound long macaroni noodles
3 tbsp. Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
I 1/2 pound lean ground beef
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red wine
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground Allspice
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 dried bay leaves
1 1/2 cups kasseri cheese, grated
1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
Spray a deep 13x 9 casserole dish with nonstick spray.
Cook the pasta to al dente according to package instructions. (Make sure to generously salt the boiling water.) Drain and drizzle a little bit of olive oil to pasta and set aside.
In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until just golden, then add the beef and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Break up meat with wooden spoon and cook until meat is fully browned. Drain tomato sauce, tomato paste and water. Mix well and add wine, spices, bay leaves and pinch of sugar. Mix to combine. Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Lower heat and allow simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
While the meat sauce is cooking, prepare the bechamel.
In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium-high heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook until golden (if needed, added a little more olive oil). Gradually add the warm milk, whisking continuously. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until smooth and thick. Add pinch nutmeg.
In a small bowl, whisk a small amount of the hot bechamel mixture with the 2 eggs in a small bowl. Return mixture to the pan with the remaining bechamel mixture. Continue to whisk the mixture bringing to a gentle boil for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool and thicken. Make sure sauce is creamy.
Assemble the Pastitsio by layering half pasta noodles on bottom of baking dish. Remove bay leaves from meat sauce. Top the cooked pasta with half of the meat sauce (spread evenly with wooden spoon). Next, top the meat sauce evenly with half of the kasseri cheese and 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese. Repeat with noodles, sauce and 1/2 kasseri cheese and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Finally spread Bechamel sauce evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese.
Bake the Pastitsio in oven for 1 hour until golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.