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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Taste The Love

Pastitsio

 

Pastitsio (2)

Lately, I’ve been testing a couple of Greek Pastitsio recipes. Pastitsio, Greek-style lasagna is so delicious. Instead of just making one pan, It’s just as easy to make two. You can bet they’ll both get eaten.

Zitoni Lunghi a long tube-shaped pasta used specifically for Pastitsio. I used Bucatini in this dish because it is readily available at local grocery stores. I’d recently visited an International market, about 30 minutes from my home, and found the traditional pasta for this dish (pictures below).

I’m also going to make a few changes to this dish. As you know ground lamb is traditional for this dish. For my Pastitsio, I’ll be making a Bolognese-style sauce filled with vegetables, ground veal, lean ground sirloin, sweet Italian sausage, and a variety of Mediterranean spices. This is going to be a really hearty meat sauce.

Making Pastitsio is a labor of love and usually made on special occasions. There are three components to this dish, first the pasta, the meat sauce, and finally the Bechamel.

Let’s get started.

Pastitsio

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Oregano

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Thyme

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Flat Leaf Italian Parsley

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Pastitsio

Pastitsio (2)

 

 

 

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
Yields: 18 servings
Equipment: 6-quart saucepot, 6-quart braising pot with a lid (Dutch oven) 3-quart saucepot, 2-9 x 11 deep-sided ceramic baking dishes, 10-cup food processor, 2 medium-size mixing bowls, 2 large mixing bowls, large slotted spoon, whisk, tongs

Ingredients For Meat Sauce:
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large yellow onion, processed
1 red bell pepper, processed
1 yellow bell pepper, processed
1 Fresno chili, seeded and processed
1 Poblano pepper, seeded and processed
1 medium-size carrot, peeled diced and processed
5 cloves of garlic, processed
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 pound of ground sirloin (90% lean)
2 pounds of ground veal
1 cup of Cabernet Sauvignon
1 1/2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 (28-ounce) can of crushed tomatoes with their juice
1 stick of butter, unsalted (reserve some for greasing the baking dish)

Ingredients For Bechamel Sauce:
2 cups of whole milk
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) of butter, unsalted
4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/2 a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 a teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
3 cups of Pecorino cheese, freshly grated (1 1/2 cups for the Bechamel, 1 cup to toss with the pasta, 1/2 a cup for the topping)
2 extra-large eggs, beaten
1 cup of Greek yogurt, room temperature
2 tablespoons of  Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, extra for garnish
2 pounds of Zitoni Lunghi (300 Ziti), substitute ziti

Directions:
Start with grating the cheese. Dice up the Pecorino cheese and add it to a food processor. Pulse until cheese is processed, as seen in the pictures above. Transfer the grated cheese to a small plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. Set aside.

Next, is to prep all the vegetables.
First, remove all the seeds from all the peppers including the Fresno chili, then roughly chop. Set aside. Peel and roughly chop the garlic and onion, set aside. Peel and chop the carrot into 1 1/2-inch dice, set aside. Clean then quarter the mushrooms.

Start by processing the mushrooms, then the onions and garlic together, next, the diced carrots, and finally all the peppers. Transfer the processed vegetables to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a 6-quart braising pot (Dutch oven) over medium-high heat add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the sweet Italian sausage. Break up the sausage with the back of a wooden spoon. Next, add the ground sirloin and ground veal. Stirring occasionally, allowing all the meat to brown until there is no longer any pink, around 20 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon to drain any excess fat, transfer the cooked meat to a large mixing bowl and set aside. Discard any fat left in the pot.

Using the same pot over medium heat add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. To the oil add the dried oregano, ground cumin, ground cinnamon, and cayenne pepper, allowing the spices to *bloom and become fragrant about 1 minute. Next, add the processed vegetables Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, stir to combine. Tun the heat up to medium-high, add the wine. Allow the wine to come up to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the wine reduces by half, 5 minutes.

Adjust the heat to medium, add the browned meat back into the pot, stir to combine. Add the crushed tomatoes with their juice. Stirring occasionally, simmer for another 45 minutes. Halfway through taste for seasoning. This is the perfect time to add a light sprinkling of Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper if needed. Once the sauce is done finish by adding fresh oregano and thyme leaves, stir to combine. Turn the heat off and cover to keep warm.

The next step is to *scald the milk/cream mixture.
In a 3-quart saucepot over medium heat bring the milk and heavy cream to just below the boiling point.

Making the *roux for the Bechamel sauce.
In a 6-quart pot over medium heat melt 1/2 a stick of butter. Add in the all-purpose flour vigorously whisking until the mixture becomes a paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don’t let it brown, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the scalded milk/cream mixture to the *roux continuously whisking. Bring to a boil. Switch to a wooden spoon, add Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat.

Add 1 full ladle of the meat sauce, stir to combine. Allow the Bechame sauce to cool completely.

Once the Bechamel has cooled, add the beaten eggs, the room temperature Greek yogurt, and 1 1/2 cups of freshly grated Pecorino cheese, whisk to combine. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the Ziti (Zitoni) pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta really well.

Well, that’s the last of the components for this dish. Now it’s time to put this bad boy together.

Use half a stick of butter to butter both baking dishes, sides included.

For the first layer, divide and arrange the hot pasta (as seen in the picture above) equally between the two buttered baking dishes. Add 4 tablespoons of softened butter to the pasta. Using a pair of tongs, gently toss allowing the butter to coat all the pasta. Next, add the Pecorino cheese, once again, gently toss to coat. Repeat for the second baking dish.

For the second layer, (equally, divide) ladle the Bolognese sauce over the pasta.

For the final layer, (equally, divide) ladle the Bechamel sauce over the Bolognese.

Sprinkle a good helping of the freshly grated Pecorino cheese over the top of each dish. Transfer the baking dishes to the middle rack, in the oven, and bake for 1 hour until bubbly and the top forms a golden-brown crust.

Sprinkle freshly chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley over the top.

Allow the Pastitsio to rest for at least 15 to 20 minutes to set before cutting.

Freezing Baked Pastitsio:
Let cool completely, wrap in foil, then again in plastic wrap really tightly. Label and date them so you can have Pastitsio any time you like. When you ready, place a pan into the frig to thaw overnight. Next, remove the foil and plastic wrap. Take a new piece of foil and lightly spray, the dull side, with a non-stick cooking spray.  This will prevent the cheese topping from sticking to the foil. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until hot all the way through. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until bubbly and the Bechamel top is lightly golden.

*Bloom is the process of gently frying them in oil and is a quick way to deepen their flavor.
*Roux is a mixture of fat (especially butter) and flour used in making sauces.
*Scalded milk is milk heated to just under the boiling point. This happens when you see small bubbles appear around the inner rim of the pot.

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Braciole and Sweet Italian Sausage

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My Braciole And Sweet Italian Sausage is a childhood favorite. I’ve updated my grandmother’s Braciole recipe.

Braciole or Involtini are stuffed beef rolls filled with just the right amount of ingredients along with the perfect balance of flavors.

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Sweet Italian Sausage (2)

Sweet Italian Sausage (3)

Sweet Italian Sausage (4)

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Sweet Italian Sausage (5)

Sweet Italian Sausage (1)

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Onions

Stuffing (2)

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Olive Oil

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Flat Leaf Italian Parsley

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Sweet Basil (2)

Basil and Italian flat-leaf parsley

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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 38 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 8 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Equipment: mini food processor, 6-quart Dutch oven, 12-inch sauté pan, 6-quart saucepot with a tight-fitting glass lid, cast-iron grill pan, meat mallet

Ingredients For Tomato Sauce:
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of good tomato paste
1 pint of Cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1/4 cup of good red wine, Chianti
2 fresh bay leaves, (substitute dried)
2 (28-ounce) cans of San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of light brown sugar
6 to 8 large basil leaves, finely chopped, for garnish

1 pound of sweet Italian sausage links (5 links)
2 pounds of top round beef steaks (Scallopini-syle)
2 1/2 cups of chicken stock, unsalted
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 cup of red wine

Ingredients For The Filling:
1 cup of Italian season breadcrumbs
1/4 cup of Pecorino-Romano cheese, freshly grated
1/4 cup of golden raisins
2 tablespoons of fresh basil, finely chopped
1/4 cup of pine nuts
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of olive oil, plus extra if needed

Directions For Tomato Sauce:
Start by the tomato sauce. First, preheat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil and tomato paste, allowing the tomato paste to begin to melt. Next, add the diced onions, dried oregano, light brown sugar, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper, frequently stirring, cooking the onions until they become translucent around 1 to 2 minutes.

To the onions add the quartered mushrooms, dried thyme, and bay leaves, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release all their water and begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. To the mushrooms and onions, add the minced garlic, stir and cook for another minute.

Next, add the red wine, stirring and scraping the bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the pot. Bring up to a bubble and allow the wine to reduce by half. Finally, add the crushed tomatoes, stir to combine, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 35 minutes.

Directions For Italian Sausage:
First, using a fork, prick 3 sets of holes into the sausage links on both sides. Transfer the sausage links into a large saucepot. Cover with chicken broth and cover with a tight-fitting lid, preferably glass. Turn the heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes or until the sausage is no longer pink. Using a pair of tongs, transfer the sausage links to a plate and set aside.

Preheat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage to the grill pan. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the grilled Italian sausage to the pot of tomato sauce.

One at a time, place the beef between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet (smooth side), gently pound to 1/8-inch in thickness. Set aside.

Directions For The Filling:
In a large mixing bowl, add the breadcrumbs, Pecorino-Romano cheese, golden raisins, finely chopped basil, toasted pine nuts, Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and olive oil, mix until the filling just comes together.

Directions For Braciole:
Line all the prepared beef slices on a (meat-safe board) flat surface. Sprinkle the filling evenly over all the beef slices. Roll the beef into a cylinder, tucking in the sides to hold in the filling as you roll. Secure with toothpicks.

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Place the beef rolls, seam side down in the pan, and brown seam side first to seal the rolls. Cook, turning the meat occasionally until each roll is nicely browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the seared stuffed beef rolls (Braciole) to the pot of tomato sauce.

In that same sauté pan, still over medium-high heat, add 1/4 cup of red wine, scraping (to *deglaze) all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Allow the wine to reduce by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour all that delicious flavor right into the pot of tomato sauce, gently stir to combine.

Simmer the Braciole and Sweet Italian Sausage on low to medium-low, in the tomato sauce, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Finish by garnishing with finely chopped fresh basil.

*Deglaze: The process of scraping meat sediments off the bottom of a pan and/or pot typically using wine.

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