As much as I love creating unique fusion dishes, there are times where I just want to sit down to traditional comfort food. As a Greek, Patsitsio is one of the ultimate comfort food dishes of my cuisine. It is hands down one of my all-time favorite dishes. It also is challenging to make at first, because it involves a custard-like savory topping that is hard to master. However, once you though, this is one of the creamiest, richest, and savoriest dishes around! This version of Patsitsio has a couple of little twists from the traditional by incorporating ingredients like tomato paste, fresh mint, and ouzo to add acidic lifts to keep the dish from being too rich. This is probably one of my favorite versions of Patsitsio that I have made, and one that I'm keeping in the recipe book for a long time to come.
Recipe serves up to 15 people.
For the Bechamel Topping:
1/2 pound butter, cut into pieces
1/2 pound all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tbsp dried mint
For the Pasta Base:
1 package pastichio pasta (hollow spaghetti, essentially)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to season
1 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1 1/2 oz ouzo
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp nutmeg
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano for the topping
1) Cook the pasta according to package instructions. After draining, mix with a tablespoon of the olive oil and some seasoning, and set aside.
2) In a large pot, melt the butter on medium heat. Stir in the flour, and cook for 5 minutes until you can no longer smell the flour.
3) Add the milk into the pot a little at a time, making sure the mixture inside is smooth before adding more. When all of the milk is incorporated, add in the salt, nutmeg, and dried mint. Whisk continuously, scraping the sides down often with a spatula.
4) Bring up to a boil, then turn to a low heat for 10 minutes, whisking throughout.
5) Whisk in the Parmigiano Reggiano until melted, then take off the heat and let cool.
6) Heat up the remaining olive oil in a large pan on medium-high heat. Add in the garlic, some salt and pepper, and the meat. Cook the meat until browned throughout, about 5 minutes.
7) Make a hole in the center of the pan and cook out the tomato paste for 1 minute, then stir into the meat along with the nutmeg.
8) Deglaze the pan with the ouzo, and toss in the fresh mint. Once it's thoroughly combined, mix the meat with the pasta.
9) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a casserole dish, layer the pasta and meat mixture on the bottom, leaving at least 1/2 an inch to an inch of space. Cover that space with the bechamel, and then top with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
10) Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown.
This dish is comforting, rich, and flavorful all around. The spike of ouzo, tomato acid, and aromatic notes of the mint keep it from being too rich, and the dish itself is amazing, with a solid bechamel topping and a savory pasta base with lamb and beef. This is the top comfort food of the Greeks, without question.
I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =)