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Nikki's Perfect Pastitsio Recipe

Nikki's Perfect Pastitsio Recipe

My mother used to work so hard in the kitchen to make this classic Greek dish, and the results were always well worth her effort. My recipe for pastitsio is easier, a bit lighter and every bit as great as Mom's.—Nikki Tsangaris, Westfield, Indiana
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 45 min. Bake: 50 min. YIELD:12 servings


  • 2-1/2 cups uncooked penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground sirloin
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 cups 2% milk
  • 2 large eggs


  • 1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Toss with butter; add grated Parmesan cheese. Transfer to a greased 13x9-in. baking dish.
  • 2. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat 8-10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink, breaking beef into crumbles; drain. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes longer. Stir in tomato sauce, salt and cinnamon; heat through. Spoon over pasta. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese.
  • 3. In a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth; gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir 1-2 minutes or until thickened.
  • 4. In a small bowl, whisk a small amount of hot mixture into eggs; return all to pan, whisking constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes. Pour over beef mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  • 5. Bake, covered, 20 minutes. Bake, uncovered, 30-40 minutes longer or until golden brown. Yield: 12 servings.

Recipe Note

Test Kitchen Tips

  • To save time and avoid dirtying a dish, feel free to skip the draining step after cooking the beef and onions. The sauce will be slightly richer, but sirloin is fairly lean so there shouldn't be much fat in the pan.
  • Whisk constantly when adding milk to the roux (the flour and butter mixture). The whisk will help break up any lumps of flour so your sauce is silky smooth.
  • This recipe makes a mountain, which is great if you're having a big gathering or just want lots of leftovers. But you can easily scale this recipe down to a more manageable size by cutting it in half.
  • The addition of warm spices such as

  • cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice is a defining characteristic of pastitsio (which, incidentally, translates to hodgepodge). If you want to test the waters, try adding half the amount of cinnamon called for in the recipe.

    Nutritional Facts

    1 piece: 332 calories, 18g fat (10g saturated fat), 98mg cholesterol, 718mg sodium, 24g carbohydrate (6g sugars, 1g fiber), 20g protein.

    Reviews for Nikki's Perfect Pastitsio

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    Reviewed Nov. 7, 2017

    "Made it and was good except it needed seasoning in tomato meat mixture like oregano. It made alot for two so froze half of it and having for dinner tonight."

    Reviewed Jul. 10, 2017

    "I just ordered pastitsio from our favorite Greek tavern and had to make a copycat at home. This tasted pretty darn close! The only thing I will change is reduce the bechamel by half. It makes SO much that it did not form together very well - it almost took on a custard-y look and feel under the top layer, which browned nicely (although it still tasted unreal). You have to add the 1/2 t cinnamon; otherwise it's not pastitsio! The flavor is subtle yet unmistakable. And I suggest making the noodles and meat one night and the bechamel the next - not only is it time consuming, it bakes for 40 minutes too!"

    Reviewed Dec. 31, 2016

    "A great dish---for all occasions. A keeper."

    Reviewed Dec. 30, 2016

    "Made it tonight for the family. I was out so I was not sure how they liked it because they did not seem to eat much. My daughter liked it but felt there was too much cinnamon. She did not say how my SIL liked it. My husband said it was good and he did not notice the cinnamon. I enjoyed it reheated when I came home.. I will put it on the monthly rotation. Gave it the 4 stars because of daughter's comment."

    Reviewed Nov. 20, 2016

    "To Appy Girl, could you please provide amount of ingredients you used to scale this dish down for 2? Thanks so much"

    Reviewed Aug. 9, 2016

    "The amount of bechamel sauce in this recipe is WAY too much for just 2-1/2 cups of pasta. I used a pound bag of pasta and it was perfect. I did cut back on some of the parmesan, using only 1-1/2 cups total (1/2 c up in the pasta, 1/2 cup on top of meat sauce, 1/2 cup as topping) and it was plenty. . As others have noted, it wouldn't taste like pastitsio without nutmeg in the bechamel sauce—I added about 1/4 t. I had to use a larger baking pan, and baked it for 1-1/4 hours to get it bubbly in the middle and the top golden brown. I also think the recipe should say it should sit for about 15 minutes once taken out of the oven; otherwise when served it all falls apart and doesn't present like the tidy slice in the photo. My family loved it!"

    Reviewed May. 6, 2016

    "rmbarr I agree that you need a touch of nutmeg in the Bechamel it really adds and gentles the flavor of the cinnamon. This is my husbands favorite dish"

    Reviewed Jan. 24, 2016 Edited Apr. 8, 2016

    "After making the noodles and the meat sauce, I thought to myself, "no way does this need 4 cups of Bechamel sauce". So, I halved that portion of the recipe, and I thought it was just right. It might not have been perfect to a Greek person, but we thought it was delicious. EDIT: The second time I made this recipe a few months later, I made it exactly as written. EXCELLENT!"

    Reviewed Jan. 19, 2016

    "Okay. I think it was the cinnamon that was throwing me off."

    Reviewed Dec. 28, 2015

    "My husband is Greek and we always make pastitcio and spanakopita for Christmas Eve dinner. I've been using the same pastitcio recipe for the last several years but decided to try this one on a whim. I believe this recipe will replace the one I used to use. The only thing I missed and would add in the future is some nutmeg to the sauce. Thanks for sharing!"

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