Compliments of the Chef: Pastitsio from Taverna Opa

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Taverna Opa Pastitsio copy

Pastitsio is one of the more popular dishes that you'll find on Greek menus. And the one served at Orlando's Taverna Opa is one of the best you can find.

In this edition of Compliments of the Chef, owner Vassilis Coumbaros demonstrates how to make it the traditional Greek way.

After watching Coumbaros, I went home and gave the recipe a try. I used penne pasta instead of the Greek macaroni that Coumbaros uses in the video, but it turned out just fine.

Watch the video and then give it a try. If you need a little more inspiration, visit Taverna Opa and try the real thing.

Pastitsio Ingredients
¼ cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
3 onions, finely chopped
2 ½ pounds lean ground beef
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups plum tomato concasse
1 cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 whole cloves
17 ounces Misko Greek Macaroni No. 2 pasta (or 1 bag, 500 grams)
4 ounces Kefalotyri cheese, grated
2 egg yolks, beaten
Salt & Pepper

Béchamel Sauce Ingredients
¾ pounds butter
¾ gallon of warm milk (or 12 cups)
3 cups flour
2 eggs
1 cup Kefalotyri cheese, grated
Salt & Pepper

Pastitsio Instructions
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin Greek olive oil and sauté the chopped onion for 5 – 7 minutes, until translucent. Add ground beef and continue stirring until it begins to brown. Add garlic, tomatoes, spices, pepper and salt. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 35 – 40 minutes, until liquid has been absorbed and meat is cooked. Remove pan from heat, let meat cool slightly. Remove whole spices.

While meat is simmering, boil the pasta to al dente. Remove, drain and shock in cold water. Then drain cold water. Toss with a little extra virgin Greek olive oil and half (or 2 ounces) of the grated cheese.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly oil a large baking pan. Add pasta to the pan. Pour meat sauce, spreading evenly over pasta and mix together. Sprinkle with 1 – 2 tablespoons grated cheese.

Béchamel Sauce Instructions
Melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour until it is smooth. Cook until it starts to brown slightly. This is a roux. Warm milk and slowly add it to the roux, while constantly stirring to avoid lumps. Cook stirring until the sauce thickens, and begins to bubble. Add salt and pepper to taste, and grated cheese. Add eggs and whisk mixture until nice and creamy.

Pour béchamel sauce over pasta and meat mixture, making sure it’s evenly spread over top of pan. Sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes, until béchamel thickens and swells and a golden brown crust forms on top.