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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pastitsio - Lamb and Eggplant Casserole



From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Casseroles are a bit like life. They're not always pretty, they can be messy and full of surprises, but when all is said and done, they are enormously satisfying. Casseroles have been with us since women began tending pots suspended over fire, but the idea of the casserole as a one-dish meal was initiated in America during the Great Depression. They became really popular in the 1950's when new materials for cooking appeared on the market and advertisers began touting the virtues of one-dish meals that freed women from kitchen drudgery. They remained popular through the 1970's but fell into disfavor as diner's became more sophisticated and diet conscious. I still have several casseroles in my permanent recipe rotation, but today's recipe was a test run. My family will be visiting in August and our two oldest grandsons are beginning to display symptoms of, what we call, "hollow leg syndrome" - they are always hungry. I like to have a casserole or two available to supplement regular meals while they're here. I'd seen this recipe in Gourmet magazine years ago. I clipped it because it was so much lighter than my version of this Greek classic. Pastitsio is a Greek casserole that contains layers of macaroni and chopped meat that are topped with a cream sauce. I made it this evening and must say I found it to be a nice, but not great, casserole. I expected more from this multi-step recipe than it could deliver. None of the steps are hard, but this is not a dish that you can throw together in minutes. I expect recipes this involved to be great and it missed the mark. I am, however, going to keep and recommend the recipe because it is a nice alternative to lasagna when you have a crowd to feed. Here's the recipe. You be the judge.

Pastitsio - Lamb and Eggplant Casserole...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite, courtesy of Gourmet Magazine

Ingredients:
Lamb Sauce
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lean ground lamb
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 (28- to 32-oz) can crushed tomatoes
Cheese Sauce
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 garlic clove
1 whole clove
1/2 lb feta, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs
Pasta
10 ounces penne (3 cups)

Directions:
1) To make lamb sauce: Cook onion in oil in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add lamb and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt, oregano, cinnamon, sugar, and pepper and sauté, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in eggplant and tomatoes and gently simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is just tender, about 40 minutes. Remove lid and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2) To make cheese sauce: While lamb is simmering, melt butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and add garlic clove and whole clove, then bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Add feta, salt, and pepper and cook, whisking vigorously, until cheese is well incorporated. Remove from heat. Discard garlic clove and whole clove. Beat eggs in a large bowl and gradually add sauce to eggs, whisking.
3) To make pasta: Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until just al dente, then drain in a colander. Toss half of pasta with lamb sauce and half with cheese sauce.
4) To assemble pastitsio: Pour pasta with lamb sauce into a wide shallow 3-quart baking dish, spreading evenly. Spoon pasta with cheese sauce on top, spreading evenly. Bake pastitsio, uncovered, in middle of oven until bubbling and top is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

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70 comments :

Sushma Mallya said...

Different casserole, but looks really delicious,loved the pic mary, have a lovely day,take care

jelena said...

Mary, I love the stories behind your recipe, always inspiring and always something to learn...a one meal dish in this part of the world is a mussaka....a reminence of the great Ottoman empire...mussakas with potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, anything that you can put in...but as you say these dishes are slowly being replaced by the modern tendencies in food...lighter, more pleasing to the eye...but there is nothing better to warm up the house then the oven baking a casserole..best to you...

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

I must stop reading your posts first thing in the morning, now I am starved before I even think about breakfast LOL. Have a good day. Diane

Pondside said...

That is true comfort food!

nocton4 said...

yum yum, we have a teen with hollow legs too
love & care to you, thanks for such a wonderful blog xx

Priya said...

Beautiful casserole, looks awesome..

FireintheBreeze (Brittany) said...

I loved the history behind the casserole, and your lovely analogy about life. Very uplifting...oh and of course it just looks fab! Doesn't look like my messy casseroles at all.

Jess @ Bakericious said...

looks cheesy and yummy

cccris said...

pastitio...yummy

pigpigscorner said...

casseroles can be ugly but they are always so tasty and comforting!

Joanne said...

I have to say, I am a HUGE fan of casseroles. HUGE. Maybe it's the un-gourmet in me. But whatever. They are always comforting.

Pastitsio is a serious favorite as it has two of my loves - eggplant and lamb. This one looks incredibly tasty!

Big Dude said...

It sure looks good and I like the lifes philosohy comparison you began with.

Simply Life said...

oh wow, that looks great!

Katerina said...

Mary, perhaps the reason why it was not as satisfying is the recipe's fault. I can tell you that indeed Pastitsio is messy and time consuming, but the end result is absolutely worth it. Perhaps you were a little unlucky and the recipe was not as good. The original Pastitsio is made with ground beef, pasta and sauce mornay. In the weeks to follow I will try to post the recipe we are using in the family. Perhaps you can try it and tell me your opinion.

PeggyR said...

That sounds very different. We love lamb and eggplant as well.

From the Kitchen said...

Mary, this is one of our favorite "casseroles" and a lighter version is welcome. I've spent the past few days going through old (real) Gourmet's and trying to clip and toss. I realize I need an "intervention"!! Is back to 1979 too many issues to keep? Do we really need a second guest room?

Have fun filling up those "hollow legs"!

Best,
Bonnie

penny aka jeroxie said...

Such a beautiful and mouth watering dish!

Joyce said...

I smiled when you said the grandsons have hollow leg syndrome:-) I like the lighter version of such a classic. Once again I thank you for sharing.

Cathy said...

I've never added eggplant to my pastitsio sauce before, but have to say that it does sound yummy. The use of feta would be tasty too. Sorry it missed the mark for you.

A SPICY PERSPECTIVE said...

I'm trying to get over my aversion to casseroles. This looks like it might do the trick!

Sage said...

Like you I find Casseroles very nice to have. We raised 4 boys so I know what Hollow leg syndrome means and now I have 2 grandsons with that same disease. Casseroles are my best friend when company is coming. Also nice to have sitting in the freezer.

Martha said...

I am so wanting to get in the kitchen to cook and your posts don't help! This is a favorite of ours -- Jim really likes all food Greek! This will have to be a first on my menu when I get back in the kitchen.

Foley said...

Looking at any of your food photos is an adventure in itself! Looks delicious - even though not a fan of lamb. Eggplant on the other hand I could have over and over!

Claudia said...

I hav no lamb or eggplant casseroles in my repertoire. They may have fallen into disfavor but my family adores them - all those goodly flavors melding into one. This looks too scrumptious to not try.

Jenn said...

Well, it might not have lived up to your expectations, but it sure does look spectacularly good :) I've never actually used lamb in a casserole before, gonna have to give that a try!

NikiTheo said...

Wow, there are a lot more ingredients in this pasticio than a more authentic one! Sometimes you have to forgo the attempt to make something healthy in order to enjoy the dish. My family's recipe is fantastic. It's on my blog from this past winter if you wanna check it out. It's simple and easy, make the meat portion, toss w/ cooked pasta, make the bechamel for the top and bake. And it's great!

Jennifurla said...

Casseroles are a lifesavor here, I love them and they just get better and better. THis looks great

Ana Powell said...

I love making this dish too, so delicious ♥

Lori said...

I like casseroles- this is a nice one.

I loved your analogy of life and casseroles- so true.

Enjoy your beautiful summer days and your family Mary!

Maggie said...

Oh this sounds so yummy. I'm seeing a new fella so this gives me something new and wonderful to try for him!

Brenda De Sousa said...

Oh this looks so delicious! I love casseroles. Have a great day Mary!

Susi said...

I love Pastitsio but usually only get it when we go out and eat at a Greek restaurant. I'm bookmarking this recipe for the next time I find some good lamb! :o)

Kath said...

You can't tell that the recipe missed the mark by your photo! Beautiful!

Adventures in Domestic Cooking said...

This looks sooo good!
Eggplant is wonderful!

Salsa Verde said...

Hi Mary,
What a fantastic and delicious meal!!
Love,
Lia.

Angie's Recipes said...

Casserole is like life :-)) I love the saying..but I must say that our casserole looks very pretty too!

Gloria said...

I love eggaplant and this look fantastic, nice recipe Mary, blessings, gloria

Eliana said...

Love how you compred casseroles to life. So true. And this Pastisio looks amazing and almost like an awesome one I had a Greece while on vacation last month. Bravo!

Beth @ DiningAndDishing said...

I love casseroles because they are simple, satisfying and serve a large group simply. Thanks for the recipe! Just goes to show casseroles can indeed be very unique and gourmet :).

Kelly said...

Sorry to hear this didn't turn out perfectly, but glad you still shared so others can adapt and tweak. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm glad you did so it gave me the opportunity to follow yours. :-)

Cheryl said...

Wow,that is gorgeous, another dish I have never attempted!

Cherine said...

Looks so tempting!

Maria said...

I love eggplant, one of my favorite veggies.

Barbara said...

I agree, Mary. I have a nice repertoire of casseroles too...and they are so simple to turn to when you have company. I usually have one in the freezer for emergencies as well.
A lot of people don't like lamb, but my family loves it. So glad you gave this a trial run for us!

RamblingTart said...

Casseroles are one of my favorite things to eat. Always delicious, always savory, even if they aren't pretty. :-) Yours looks so hearty and delicious, Mary. :-)

Chef E said...

Pasta is my weakness- I just made my mom's goulash recipe with lamb, was heavenly indulgence for my weekly meat meal!

John8com said...

This looks outstanding. Lamb and Eggplant..who knew?

Brad

Jess--Sugar High said...

I've never had lamb, but I adore eggplant. This sounds wonderful!

Suman Singh said...

such a delicious and uinque looking casserole...love that eggplant in it...super yummy...

RV said...

This is a luscious casserole. YUMM.

YasmiN said...

i was reading your entry in the middle of the night.and i was extremely hungry when looking at this recipe!i sure want to try this.nice to know it from u mary!good day :)

Federica said...

ne mangerei una fetta...e farei pure il bis...deve essere una bontà!!:-))
Bravissima!!ciaooooooo

Indie.Tea said...

I really like the fact that you provided a history of the casserole, it was very interesting. I think that casseroles are perhaps underrated because they're seen as old-fashioned. I haven't ever had a casserole, but this looks like a good one to try.

Dave said...

Looks tasty. I have a recipe for Pastitsio that I have saved as well, just never got around to trying it. One day perhaps...

DailyChef said...

I like how you compare casserole to life :) Great looking recipe too. I don't think I've tried lamb in casserole before.

citymouse said...

I made Pastitsio once about 20 years ago and all I remember was that it was a lot of work! I am a huge fan of casseroles and will probably give this a whirl since it will be different than the ones I usually make.

Thanks!

Judy said...

I have made this dish many times, and also moussaka. Love both of them. I have two Greek friends and they both make pastitsio and moussaka. Greek food is delicious.
PS Please come by my judyskitchen blog and enter my $70 giveaway. Deadline is Sunday, July 25, Midnight. Open to all. You may win a nice prize for kids or grandkids.

The Words Crafter said...

Mmmm, that looks good! And thank you for your encouraging words on my blog. It means a lot.

El said...

Such a wonderful description and history. It looks like a wonderful dish. Thanks for sharing!

Julie M. said...

I love lamb, so this seems like it would be an interesting casserole. I have three boys so we know all about the hollow leg syndrome. We do a lot of one dish meals in this house. Thanks for sharing!

Debinhawaii said...

I really enjoy Pastitsio--my old roommate's mom, who is Greek used to make it and my favorite Greek restaurant here makes a good one too. Too bad this recipe didn't deliver the way you wanted it too--it does look delicious.

Jeannie said...

Looks delicious and beautiful! My boys simply love casseroles!

Foodessa said...

Mary...glad you made an honourary place for the ugly duckling too...and after all...your casserole looks far from ugly ;o)
It looks delicious. I too make this recipe somewhat a little differently though...and enjoy it very much.

Have a great weekend and flavourful wishes, Claudia

bellini valli said...

You know I am there Mary with this Greek-inspired casserole.

Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz said...

LOVE the casserole is like life comment lol. I love casseroles in the winter. I have had this in Greek restaurants and to me it feels like a shortcut to a good moussaka. But a bit of tweaking could make it interesting.

Thank you for the amazing comments you left on my blog. really touched. I really enjoy yours too!

Sasha said...

I love your life-casserole analogy.
This dish looks amazing. I have to try it.

cityhippyfarmgirl said...

That sounds delicious... warm, satisfying, and just perfect for our weather at the moment.

CaSaundraLeigh said...

This sounds so tasty! I love one dish meals, and I have never tried lamb before!

EJL said...

I love pastitsio, so I'm sorry this was less than impressive for you. I find a tablespoon or two of allspice and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg in the lamb sauce really brings this dish to another level.

Your posts always make me want to jump up and go get myself covered in flour. Thanks.

Joy said...

Hi Mary, just a note to say I linked to this post as I had pastitsio on my YamDaisy menu!

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