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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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    jdphotog User ID: 8844190 269297
    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!"

    SandraAnneA User ID: 6619681 258946
    Reviewed Dec. 31, 2016

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

    Typingn2000 User ID: 7207120 258879
    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."

    Theresa User ID: 8570930 257009
    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"

    1sealover User ID: 8789988 252405
    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!"

    jerseysue55 User ID: 5667156 247918
    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"

    jmkasprak User ID: 2880256 242481
    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!"

    mkaskela User ID: 6061564 242081
    Reviewed Jan. 19, 2016

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

    rmbarr059 User ID: 4046105 240443
    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!"

    pspathis User ID: 8463626 230304
    Reviewed Jul. 28, 2015

    "I would recommend to first mix the flour and milk while it's cold and then add it on the stove top. Add butter then one knorr for taste. Once it thickens then take off of fire, add cheese, eggs, nutmeg, pepper to taste while stirring."

    Appy_Girl User ID: 1132413 229067
    Reviewed Jul. 6, 2015 Edited Dec. 1, 2016

    "Hello Theresa,

    I basically cut the recipe in 1/2. I allowed (1) cup plus of pasta per person. ( Cooked ) For the Meat portion I cooked up 3 hamburgers. (1) small can of tomato sauce, Pinch of Cinnamon. For the parm Cheese. I used a 1/2 cup. (1) clove of Garlic and about a 1/2 cup chopped onion. The last cup of cheese was probably 1/3-1/2.
    For the B?chamel sauce
    1/4 cup butter
    1/3 cup flour
    Salt and pepper to taste
    2 cups of whole milk
    ( I don't remember if I used the egg or not) My honest guess is No )
    I did reduce the amount .
    I also buttered 2 small individual oven safe casserole dishes and divided up the mixture between them.
    We really enjoyed this recipe and I hope you try it soon.
    Janie TOH Volunteer FE"

    angela32 User ID: 3084463 228724
    Reviewed Jun. 29, 2015

    "This was amazing. You must plan ahead! We loved the warmth the cinnamon brought. I changed the noodles for what I had on hand, and some of the cheese. *I ran out of parm* but I can't imagine it tasting any better!"

    habenaroman User ID: 7905288 227075
    Reviewed May. 28, 2015


    dschultz01 User ID: 1076910 226815
    Reviewed May. 23, 2015 Edited May. 27, 2015

    "Good dish, but takes a while to make. Also the bechamel sauce was a little too much."

    Bajaspeed User ID: 6369857 218204
    Reviewed Jan. 18, 2015

    "Was good but next time will leave the cinnamon out because my family didn't like it."

    Gmnwiens User ID: 7747483 216391
    Reviewed Dec. 30, 2014

    "Really enjoy this dish! It is a regular on our menu now. I just like to add a bit of slightly seasoned crushed/diced tomatoes to the top."

    gaylene2 User ID: 3368539 197452
    Reviewed Oct. 14, 2014

    "I've been discovering Greek food for a while so it was fun to try this recipe! I liked the hint of cinnamon in a main dish recipe. The sauce is a wonderful addition! Everybody in my house liked it!"

    kallee User ID: 1377067 186183
    Reviewed Sep. 11, 2014

    "Loved the Bechamel sauce in this recipe. I have also made it meatless and loved it as well."

    ldbrown User ID: 7918000 194720
    Reviewed Aug. 7, 2014

    "Not great but not bad."

    serena7051 User ID: 7918914 138321
    Reviewed Aug. 6, 2014

    "Fantastic. A hit with the entire family."

    mrenda User ID: 5393618 123542
    Reviewed Feb. 28, 2014

    "My husband and I love this recipe! I have made it twice now and it is a keeper for sure!"

    jstowellsupermom User ID: 7101358 121768
    Reviewed Feb. 27, 2014

    "My family loved this! A great change up from the usual baked pasta dish we usually have!"

    gucci65 User ID: 7131119 197451
    Reviewed Jan. 2, 2014

    "Wonderful and very easy. Used ground lamb instead of ground sirloin."

    janeenj User ID: 7132464 197277
    Reviewed Dec. 23, 2013

    "A hit for a large group & a welcome alternative to another ho-hum lasagna. I made the meat sauce ahead, then compiled the dish on the day I planned to serve it. Everyone loved it & will make again. Possible tweaks - add a bit of nutmeg to the béchamel. Also- a 9x13 pan will be very full, so you may want to place in a larger dish. Make a Greek salad & breadsticks & you have a crowd-pleasing meal."

    pattikins2013 User ID: 7503502 198426
    Reviewed Dec. 22, 2013

    "Absolutely delicious! Introduced it to my steak and potatoes guy and he loved it! Will definitely make again. A terrific, easier recipe for a wonderful, tasty Greek dish."

    oxfordmom User ID: 1932321 182165
    Reviewed Dec. 20, 2013

    "We've never had pastitsio before so making this recipe was a real test. It passed with flying colors! Everyone loved it!"

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