Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Easy Ground Beef Pastitsio

This is my take on various pastitsios I've see over the years. Budget friendly by using only ground beef, and family friendly by being lightly, yet deliciously seasoned.

meat filling:2  lbs ground beef
1 cup diced white onion
1/2 cup beef broth
2 teaspoons grated garlic
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed between your fingertips
pinch  cayenne
1 (28 oz) can  whole tomatoes, chopped, with juices (I take kitchen scissors and chop them right in the can)
kosher salt & pepper to taste

for the pasta topping:
1/2 lb elbow macaroni, or small shell pasta, cooked but not until fully done. It's going to cook more in the oven, so just barely al dente is fine. Drained.
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1 cup heavy  cream
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
kosher salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups fresh grated parmesan, divided

for breadcrumb topping:
2 cups coarse bread crumbs
1/4 of the grated parmesan
2 Tablespoons very soft butter
pinch kosher salt and pepper
parsley to sprinkle

To Make! :

Cook pasta as directed above, and set aside.
In a large skillet, brown ground beef, being careful not to mash up the ground beef too much. Larger chunks than  you would for spaghetti sauce is nice.
Add onion, garlic, herbs and spices, tomato paste, salt and pepper, and stir just to melt the tomato paste in  and distribute the spices.
Drain off accumulated fat, if needed.
Add beef  broth and tomatoes. Stir to combine, taste for salt and pepper, keeping in mind the parmesan added later will lend some saltiness.
Lower heat to a simmer, being careful to not stir too much,  and start on the white sauce for the pasta.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter.
When the butter begins to bubble a bit, add flour all at once, and whisk quickly until all butter is absorbed. Stir constantly for about 2-3 minutes over low heat.
Slowly whisk  in the milk, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps.
When mixture is smooth, add cream and turn up heat just a bit to thicken a little quicker.
Add pinch of kosher salt and a good amount of pepper (or to your pepper preference).
Grate in about 1/8-1/4  teaspoon nutmeg
Turn off heat and stir in parmesan cheese and yogurt.
Quickly stir in beaten eggs, stirring until completely blended in.
Stir in pasta. Set aside.

Preheat oven to  350 degrees

for the crispy bread crumb topping:
 Mix together  all bread crumb topping until  well combined. Set aside.

Assemble !:

In a 9x13 baking dish, spread the  meat mixture evenly.
Carefully spoon pasta mixture over meat mixture, even  as possible without mixing meat and pasta.
Sprinkle on bread crumb topping  and parsley.

Bake, uncovered, until hot and bubbly and golden! About 30-45 minutes.

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