Mariel here. I’ve made a few Feast-worthy recipes recently but haven’t had a spare second to actually write them up. In addition to the usual deadline drama, my son is nearing his first birthday and has decided to start toying with tantrums. For the past four mornings, he’s woken up at a brisk 5:20AM, stood up in his crib and screamed. Not a hurt howl or an upset whimper, a furious “get me the eff out of here” bellow. And he doesn’t quit until we come in and rescue him from the horrors of his serene, aqua-themed nursery.
If I take more than three seconds retrieving an item he points to, meltdown. Diaper changes: meltdown. Sitting him in a stroller, carseat or high chair: meltdown. Full-on tears-streaming-down-his-face fury. On the flip-side, he’s learned to hug and has uttered his first words: “this” and “that,” which he uses to indicate all the things he wants to touch, taste or grab. Which is everything.
Anyway, I made this Pastitsio a few weeks back when the weather wasn’t quite so summery and my son wasn’t quite so demanding. But even though this is more of a cool-weather comfort food, I plan on making it again since it serves a small army, it saves really well, and my little guy loved it. It’s creamy and cheesy and all things you don’t want to be eating now that it’s bathing suit season, but it’s totally delicious so I suggest indulging. Now back to my tiny tyrant…
Greek Pastitsio – Baked Pasta with Meat Sauce and Bechamel
Adapted from Simply Delicious
1½lbs lean ground beef – $6.00
2 medium sweet onions, finely chopped – $1.59
3 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped – $0.99
3 celery stalks, finely chopped – $2.99
4 garlic cloves, crushed – stock
2 bay leaves – stock
2 14.5-oz cans of chopped tomatoes – $3.38
2 Tablespoons tomato paste – $0.89
1½ cups low-sodium beef stock – stock
¾-teaspoon dried mint – stock
¾-teaspoon dried oregano – stock
¾-teaspoon ground nutmeg – stock
¼-teaspoon ground cloves – stock
¼-teaspoon cinnamon – stock
½-teaspoon ground cumin – stock
2 teaspoons sugar – stock
Salt and pepper to taste – stock
For the bechamel:
1/3 cup unsalted butter – stock
1/3 cup all-purpose flour – stock
2¾-cup 2% milk – stock
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg – stock
1 teaspoon paprika – stock
1 cup aged cheddar – $3.00
Salt and pepper, to taste – stock
1½lbs whole wheat penne pasta, cooked al dente according to package instructions – $1.49
Grand total assuming well-stocked kitchen: $20.33
Cost per serving: $2.03
1. In a large lidded stock pot, brown the ground beef. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2. NOTE: I pulsed the carrots, onion and celery in the cuisinart to get a nice fine chop, since my knife skills are lacking. In the same pot, saute the onions, celery, carrots and garlic until soft and fragrant. Add the bay leaves. Add the ground beef, tomatoes, tomato paste, stock, herbs/spices, sugar. Simmer through over a medium flame, then reduce heat to low, place the lid on top and cook gently for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a large oven proof dish (like a Le Creuset French Oven).
4. While the meat sauce is simmering, cook your pasta and make the bechamel. In a small sauce pan, heat the milk over a low flame. In a larger sauce pan, gently melt butter. Add the flour to the butter and stir until a paste is formed.
5. Slowly add the warm milk to the butter/flour mixture over a med-low flame, pouring just a few Tablespoons at a time and incorporating well with a whisk before adding more. Once half of the milk has been added, you can add larger amounts. The sauce will be thick and smooth. If it’s not thickening up, let it sit on the heat for a minute before whisking again.
6. Remove the sauce from heat and stir in the spices and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Check the meat sauce and adjust salt/pepper.
8. In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with half of the bechamel sauce. Transfer HALF of the dressed pasta to the prepared oven dish.
9. Pour the meatsauce over the pasta and spread.
10. Pour the other half of the pasta on top. Pour the remaining half of the bechamel on top of that.
11. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Serve hot.