If I can cook it, you can cook it And I'll travel the world to bring it back home to you.

Ina Garten’s Pastitsio

        I’ve waited all summer for the first cool day to arrive.  Not that I don’t love every minute of summer, it’s just that I have been dying to try this gorgeous dish ever since I saw it in House Beautiful. With yet another dire weather prediction for high winds and heavy rains, it seemed the perfect night to hunker down with this wonderful comfort food.  And I always look forward to anything from Ina, whose new cookbook “How Easy is That?” is due out October 26th.  You can order it right here!  
Pastitsio, Ina informed us, is like a Greek version of lasagna.  Ground beef is combined with ground lamb and then flavored with tomatoes, then mixed with pasta.  And, as in a truly great lasagna, the whole thing is covered with a delicious Bechamel sauce with a twist: Greek yogurt is added to the sauce at the last minute.  This gives the topping a completely different taste…it tastes, well, Greek! 
        My friend Keith and I had a good old laugh recently about home chefs’ recipe reviews.  When they add their comments to various sites like epicurious.com or foodnetwork.com, they inevitably talk about how they didn’t really follow the recipe at all – substituting ingredients left, right and center.  Of course any good cook not only can but often should work with whatever they have on hand.  It’s just that Keith and I think it’s a little ridiculous to criticize a recipe when you’ve altered it—in some cases—beyond all recognition.  I did make some changes here but in the end this is pure Ina—so full of flavor, so relatively easy and so pleasing that, once again, you just have to bow down and thank her for this.
        As to my changes, I’m making a concerted effort to use up the vast pantry that has accumulated in both our kitchens.  Slavishly following recipes has led to perhaps a dozen half-used boxes of pasta.  So I couldn’t bring myself to use the small shell pasta Ina called for.  Instead I used oricchiette, which is a perfectly fine substitute.  Then in lieu of the crushed tomatoes in puree, I used a jar that we’d canned ourselves.  Finally, I halved the recipe.  In our house, the problem is that in trying to keep this blog chock full of new ideas, leftovers get short shrift.  So I try to limit the quantities of them that clog the refrigerator if I don’t.  I wasn’t very successful here:  The Pastitsio is absolutely delicious but it also falls into the ‘too rich to eat too much’ category.  But four people would be delirious over this.   One last note:  Ina called for either Parmigiano or a Greek cheese called “Kasseri”.  I found it at Fairway.  I’d highly recommend trying to do so yourself.  I think it add to the whole “Greekness” of the dish and takes it further away from any conventional Italian baked pasta dish.  Here’s the recipe, as Ina wrote it.  It is for 8 portions. I halved it easily. ( I wish I could have quartered it.)

1 thought on “Ina Garten’s Pastitsio”

  • The recipe sounds great. I had to laugh about your comments about home cook's reviews. I always think the same thing. Usually when I try a recipe for the first time I do what the recipe says. Then I jot down how I would improve it for the next time.

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