The Perfect Pastitsio: A Historical Background and Recipe Guide

bechamel, cheese, feta, Greece, Mediterranean, pasta, pastitsio -

The Perfect Pastitsio: A Historical Background and Recipe Guide

With the Lenten period fast approaching (March 18-May 4), there is a limited amount of time remaining to indulge in one of, in my opinion, the best meals in Mediterranean cuisine. Pastitsio, rooted in the heart of Greece, presents itself as a symphony of flavors and textures, each element crafted to evoke a sense of hearty comfort. Sometimes known simply as the Greek version of lasagna, Pastitsio brings an entirely cheesier, creamy taste. In this week's blog, I will include a brief history of the influences which have shaped the modern Pastitsio that we know and love. In addition, I will include an ingredient list and recipe, many of the items are available here at Nick's!

Origins and Ancient Roots:

The name pastitsio comes from from the Italian word "pasticcio", stemming from a large family of pies. The origins of pastitsio can be traced back to ancient Greece, where the concept of layering pasta with flavorful ingredients took root. The Greeks were early pioneers of combining pasta with meats and sauces, creating a dish that was not only hearty but also celebrated the bounty of the Mediterranean. This early version of pastitsio laid the foundation for the dish we know and love today.

Byzantine Era:

During the Byzantine era, the dish continued to evolve. Influences from the Byzantine Empire brought new spices, herbs, and techniques that enhanced the flavors of pastitsio. The dish became a symbol of the cultural and culinary exchange that characterized this period, as ingredients from the East and West melded together.

Ottoman Influence:

The Ottoman Empire left a mark on the culinary landscape of Greece. The introduction of ingredients like cinnamon, cloves, and allspice added a layer of complexity to the dish, creating a fusion of flavors. The Ottoman influence also brought about variations in preparation and presentation.

Modern Era:

As Greece moved into the modern era, pastitsio continued to adapt to changing tastes and culinary trends. The dish gained widespread popularity and became a staple in Greek households and restaurants alike. Each region of Greece developed its own spin on pastitsio, incorporating local ingredients and culinary traditions.

Ingredients and Recipe

I considered not including this section of the blog, because I know how particular Greeks are with their recipes...and by no means is this THE BEST PASTITSIO RECIPE to ever exist, though I do believe it sets the framework for a good start. By all means though, please continue the same handwritten recipe that your Yiayia's yiayia had written down and has been passed along through generations, we all know that Yiayia's cooking is best. As discussed in previous blogs, the Greek cuisine centers around parea and friendship. Consider making this dish for events, parties, and other social gatherings for a fun-filled meal!

The rest of the information, as well as links to our Pastitsio specific products are down below! CLICK HERE for the link to the exact recipe which I listed (P.S. I enjoy this website for a lot of Greek recipes that I find to be quite easy to follow, very authentic and detailed)

Have a nice weekend, and we'll see you again next Friday.

- Nick's


Ingredients List (with links in BLUE to Nick's Online Store)

Base Ingredients

Buchatini Pasta (At Nick's we call it the Pasta #2)

Feta Cheese

Egg Whites

For the Meat Sauce

Lean ground beef

Red onions (finely chopped)

Garlic (chopped)

Chopped tomatoes

Tomato paste


Red wine

Bay leaf

Cinnamon stick


Olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

For Bechamel

If you are in a time crunch, we have the Bechamel Mix in stock

Plain flour



Egg yolks



salt to taste

Parmigiano-Reggiano to sprinkle (we have our house grated blend available, only in-store)

Recipe Directions

  1. To prepare this traditional pastitsio recipe, start with the meat sauce. Place a large pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil, the chopped onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste and the beef. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon and brown for 4-5 minutes. Pour in the red wine and wait to evaporate. Add the canned tomatoes, the sugar, cinnamon, clove, the bay leaf and season. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer with the lid on for about 30 minutes, until most of the juices have evaporated. (After the meat is cooked, discard the bay leaf, the clove and the cinnamon)
  2. Prepare the bechamel sauce for the pastitsio. Melt the butter in a large pan over low-medium heat. Add the flour whisking continuously to make a paste. Add warmed milk in small batches, whisking continuously in order to prevent your sauce from getting lumpy. If the sauce still needs to thicken, boil over low heat whilst continuing to stir. Remove the pan from the stove and add the egg yolks, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and the grated cheese (50g/ 1.7oz.). Whisk quickly, in order to prevent the eggs from turning an omelette! Season with salt to taste.
  3. Cook the pasta for the pastitsio 2-3 minutes less than the package instructions, so that they don’t get mushy after turning out of the oven later. Drain the pasta and stir in the egg whites and the feta cheese (smashed with a fork) and mix gently with a spatula.
  4. For this pastitsio recipe you will need a large baking dish, approx. 25*35 cm / 10*14 inch. Butter the bottom and sides of a pan and assemble the pastitsio. Layer the pasta, top with the meat sauce and even out. Top the pastitsio with the bechamel sauce and smooth out with a spatula.
  5. Sprinkle the pastichio with grated cheese and bake in preheated oven at 180C (350F) Fan for about 40 minutes, until crust turns a light golden brown. Let the pastitsio cool down for a while before serving.

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