It's all Greek to me

I’ve loved to cook, bake and eat Greek food for years. Spanakopita is probably my all-time favorite thing to make and I’m never not in the mood to eat stuffed grape leaves (with meat or not). Greek yogurt with honey might as well be Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and my mouth waters just thinking about that vertical spit of hot lamb used to make gyros.

Eggplant moussaka, baklava, olives, feta, lentils, stuffed zucchini, chicken soup with lemon, fried meatballs with mint and oregano (with tzatziki, the strained yogurt-cucumber-herb sauce on the side). The list goes on. Sometimes I fantasize about going to a culinary school that specializes in Greek food.

I’m no expert. I hardly know any of the proper names for most of their best dishes (what’s the one where you marinate lamb in lemon and garlic and slow-cook it?) but that doesn’t keep me from making them or scarfing them down at any chance. I was pleased, therefore, to come across a Greek recipe I didn’t know about called pastitsio. It’s a baked pasta dish with a distinctly Greek flavor based on the inclusion of a sweet spice like nutmeg, allspice, or cinnamon. It’s not hard to see why this is considered a Greek comfort food.

Apparently the word pastitsio comes from the Italian word pasticcio meaning mess or hodgepodge. Although there are many variations on this pastitsio recipe, This is the version that I made and got rave reviews by my meat and dairy-eating private chef clients. It’s not anywhere near a low-fat dish, but I often have most of the ingredients in my pantry.

Meat filling:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1# tubular pasta like penne or ziti, cooked al dente
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1# of ground (not lean) pork, lamb, or beef or a combination
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cups of tomato puree
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 beaten egg whites (save yolks for bechamel sauce)
  • 1/4 cup butter

Bechamel sauce:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 cups warm milk
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add meat and cook, stirring often until it’s browned. Keep the fat in the pan. Add the onion and saute till translucent. Add the wine, spices, salt and pepper, and the tomato puree. Cook over medium low heat for 10 minutes, stirring often. Set aside. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large pot and add the pasta, egg whites, and 1/2 cup of the cheese and toss well.

Spread 1/2 the pasta onto the bottom of a 11 x 13 inch pan. Add the meat and then the rest of the pasta and press down to flatten. Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare the bechamel.

Melt 1/2 cup butter in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and stir continuously until the flour is golden and smells nutty. Add the warmed milk a little bit at a time, whisking to incorporate before adding more. Turn the heat to low and whisk the sauce as it thickens. Don’t let it boil. It should be thicker than gravy but thin enough to pour.

Pour the white sauce over the noodles, top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Featured Culinary Schools

Refine School Matches
Hide filters

    See More


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            5 Program(s) Found
            Le Cordon Bleu Schools of North America , Online (campus option available)
            • Le Cordon Bleu provides hands-on training from professional chef instructors.
            • Offer Flexible schedules and online programs to fit busy lives, Certificate, Associates, Bachelors and online programs available. Programs vary by location.
            • Le Cordon Bleu provides a pathway from essential foundational training to advanced culinary degrees.
            • Building on 100 years, Le Cordon Bleu is a leader in the culinary arts with a well-known name and quality reputation in the culinary and hospitality industry.
            • While attending, you’ll spend significant time in the kitchen practicing precision techniques.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            4 Program(s) Found
            Virginia College , Birmingham
            • Instructors are typically real-world professionals with many years of experience in their career fields.
            • Ranked #3 in Best for Vets: Career & Technical Colleges 2014 by Military Times.
            • Presents the full tuition cost up front. In most cases, even textbooks are included in the total price.
            • Provides career services associates to help students review their resume, provide career counseling, help with job searches, and more.
            • Has 27 campus locations across the southern United States, plus offers online degree programs.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            3 Program(s) Found
            • Culinary Arts program includes the 3-week Farm To Table® Experience, where students gain a direct, in-depth look at where food comes from.
            • Numerous scholarship opportunities and financial aid are available to students who qualify.
            • Accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET), and the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
            • 2 campuses located in Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            1 Program(s) Found
            Eastwick College , Hackensack
            If you want to get into the workplace quickly or advance your existing career, Eastwick College and the HoHoKus Schools offer job-focused programs that can be completed in as little as six months. Flexible schedules and scholarships for selected students make getting your education more convenient and less expensive than you may have imagined.
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Ranked the 13th  Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 11:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
            Show more [+]