Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Celebrating Heritage with Pastitsio

Since my hubby and I just bought our house we weren't really doing gifts for our anniversary. Besides he NEVER wants anything. He has to be the hardest person to buy for so normally I don't ;) But being the 1st anniversary I still have to make it special in some way so what is a girl to do - make dinner! I had originally planned to make our favorite meal from Macaroni Grill - Chicken Scalopini and then top it off with dessert ravioli (banking on the fact that the one year old cake would not be so yummy) however my plan was nixed with the very very generous gift from hubby's aunt of $100 to where else - our favorite restaurant of course - Macaroni Grill. So I had to come up with a better idea so I decided to make Pastitsio. For those of you not Greek (don't feel bad, me either) it is basically Greek Lasagna - until last year I had never heard of it and certainly never tasted the stuff but it is very good - tastes nothing like lasagna though. We actually had it at our rehearsal dinner so I decided to celebrate my husbands heritage and make it for our anniversary dinner.
I looked all over for the Greek cheese but could only find the one kind - I ended up at an Italian little market (probably one of my all time favorite shops - Deviti's if you are in the Akron, OH area) and they said that they had Mizithra but they call it Ricotta Salata (hockey puck looking one, not the wedge) so I got that. Unfortunately couldn't find Kefalotyri any where (although did find a place that could order it for me - too bad I needed it same day - next time I will be prepared and order ahead) So I picked up some Romano with the advise of my mother in law.

Turned out that it wasn't so hard to make at all - did messy A LOT of dishes but other than that it was a fairly simple recipe. Hubby was very impressed - told me that it definitely had that "pastistsio flavor" and then gave me the ultimate of compliments "Nani and Pa would be proud of you" For a little back round - I never got to meet Nani as she died way before I came along but Pa and I were very good friends. He was one of my favorite people and I always enjoyed going to his house to visit with him. He passed a week and a half before our wedding.......

Pastitsio - I got this recipe from Elly says Opa (one of my favorites in my Google Reader) - I have noted my changes

1 lb medium tubed shaped pasta (ziti, penne) I used Ziti
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup mizithra, grated (riccota salata)
2 tbsp butter
Cook pasta until al dente (you want a little bit of a bite left as it will continue to cook when you bake).
Melt butter and toss with pasta, cheese, and beaten egg.
6 tbsp butter
2/3 c flour
4 c milk (I used skim)
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup mizithra, grated (riccota salata)
3/4 cup kefalotyri, grated (I used a mix of Ramon (1/2 c) and Parmesan (1/4c))
2 eggs, beaten
1 egg yolk, beaten
Melt butter in large sauce pan. Add flour and whisk. Cool about 1-2 minutes to remove raw flour taste. Stir in Milk and bring to a slight boil. (I really thought that something had went terribly wrong at this point. It seemed too lumpy too thin just plain not right - visions of ordering pizza for our first anniversary dinner are swarming in my head - but alas it thickened and turned out just as thick and beautiful as it should) Continue to simmer until thickened, and until cream coats the back of a spoon. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Remove from heat.
Allow to cool slightly before stirring in cheese and egg.
Meat sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion (I only used 1/2 and onion, but I am not a huge fan)
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste (I thought that I had this in the cupboard but turns out I had tomato sauce - honest mistake right? )
2 cups of water (I only added about a 1/4 of a can since I added tomato sauce instead of paste)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon or one stick (I just gave it a few shakes didn't actually measure)
8 whole cloves or allspice or a mixture (I only had the allspice so again I just gave it a few shakes)
1.5 tbsp dried parsley or about 2x that fresh (wow - totally missed this, oops)
salt (about 2 or so tsp) and pepper to taste
heat olive oil in skillet, add onions and cook for a few minutes before adding beef. Brown beef and drain. Return the beef to the pan and cook about a minute with the minced garlic. Stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer for an hour, seasoning to taste (I was short on time so I did not simmer for an hour - 1/2 maybe, not sure it was even that long)
Grease a large lasagna pan or baking dis. Layer half the pasta mixture, the entire meat mixture, the remaining pasta and then the cream. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup grated Kefalotyri and 1/4 cup bread crumbs (I used all of the cheese sprinkled on top - next time though I would leave off (actually leave out) the Parmesan, Romano seemed just fine - I didn't measure the bread crumbs either just lightly covered the whole top - I am sure I used more than 1/4)
Bake at 375 for about 35 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes to stiffen / set then serve.
All in all this was a very forgiving recipe (as you can see from all my little comments / blunders)
I will definitely try this again - especially since hubby said that my father in law will have to have some =)

After dinner we relaxed out on the patio with Zekers to take advantage of our wonderful weather!

Then it was onto the one year old cake!

To our amazement it really wasn't bad! Not freezer burnt, dry, nothing - really tasted like a banana cake right out of the oven!

Zeke enjoyed it too =)

1 comment:

Elly said...

looks great! glad you were able to make some of the substitutions and that you liked it. i haven't made it in a while and now it's calling my name. :)