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Pasta Bechamel bake (Pastitsio)

This dish is something we grew up on, basically translated into Pasta with bechamel sauce and a mediterranean style bolognese filling. The origins of this dish are greek where it is called Pastitsio. The dish is made up of pasta (penne, rigatoni etc – but we like spaghetti) mixed with bechamel sauce with a layer of beef in the middle and topped with more bechamel sauce.

We had some fresh spaghetti which we thought we would try with this (hence why it is more yellow in colour). We like our Pastitsio to be creamy and mild and so the beef is lightly spiced with spices such as all spice and bay leafs.

We loved this dish as kids and adults so we are sure this is a great dish for families with kids (and anything you can make in a big baking tray is perfect for family cooking).

One thing to make sure you have is plenty of bechamel sauce as you need a nice thick layer on the top (we ran out of milk but the quantities in the recipe are correct).

Spaghetti Bechamel bake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Pastitsio - Medditerranean version of Lasagne - Spaghetti with Bechamel Sauce and Ground Beef
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Serves: 4
For the Bechamel Sauce
  • 2 tbsp salted butter
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 litre of milk, heated
  • 2 bay leafs
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 750g Fresh or dry pasta (spaghetti, penne, rigatoni etc), cooked
Beef Filling
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 400g Ground beef
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper, ground
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp all spice
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 bay leafs
  • ½ cup tomato passata (pureed tomato)
Prepare the beef filling
  1. In a saucepan, sautee the onions in olive oil for around 3-4 minutes on a medium heat
  2. Then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute
  3. Add the beef and fry on a high heat for 2-3 minutes (break the beef apart so that it does not clump together)
  4. Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, paprika, bay leafs and tomato puree. Fry for another 2-3 minutes
  5. Add the passata and stir
  6. (add a little water or chicken stock if it looks dry)
  7. Stir and continue to cook on a gentle heat for 10 minutes
  8. Taste for seasoning then set aside to cool Prepare the beef filling for the pastitsio (pasta bechamel bake)
Cook the pasta
  1. If you have not already done so you should cook the pasta according to pack instruction
  2. When cooled set aside and add a little bit of olive oil to stop it from sticking (ideally the pasta should be ready the same time the bechamel is ready so you can mix it immediately)
Prepare the bechamel
  1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan
  2. Add the flour
  3. Cook out for 1-2 minutes until the flour smells nutty.
  4. Then begin adding the warmed milk while stirring well. Add approx 2-3 tbsp at a time, combine the flour, then add more.
  5. Continue doing this until a white sauce comes together. Continue adding the milk and stirring to avoid lumps.
  6. Season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg and 2 bay leafs (remember to remove these later)
  7. To finish the sauce turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly for 1 minute
  8. Add the egg yolks and whist quickly to combine and make sure the eggs dont scramble!
  9. Turn on the heat and heat through for 1-2 minutes more then turn off the heat
  10. You should have a large quantity of bechamel sauce now
  11. Taste and set aside. bechamel sauce recipe - pasta bake recipe - pastitsio recipe
Combine the dish
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  2. Pour over approximately ½ of the behcamle sauce over the cooked pasta. Combine until the pasta is well coated. Combine the pasta with the bechamel sauce for pastitsio - pasta bake recipe
  3. Butter the bottom of your baking dish
  4. Pour ½ of the pasta and cover the bottom of the dish
  5. Next add a layer of the beef (about 1 cm)
  6. Then add the rest of the pasta to cover the top
  7. Finally pour over the remainder of the bechamel sauce layer the pastitsio - pasta bake and then bake recipe
  8. Bake for around 25 minutes then your Pastitsio is ready to serve

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