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Greek Pastitsio – Baked Pasta with Homemade Meat Sauce and Bechamel

Greek Pastitsio – Baked Pasta with Meat Sauce and Bechamel
Adapted from Simply Delicious
Serves 10

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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.