I always look forward to occasions where I can feed lots of people - excuses to make huge casserole dishes like pastitsio and moussaka. I threw a Greek Spring themed dinner party a few weeks ago and twisted this Greek classic around using buffalo meat instead of the traditional lamb/beef. In my celebration of massive, shaggy, grass grazing bovids, I braised the buffalo meat in Bison Brewing's Organic Chocolate Stout, instead of the usual wine. I didn't stray too much from the rest of the traditional pastitsio ways, although I used Argentinian parmesan instead of kefalotyri because I was easily sold by the Whole Foods cheese monger. Since it was a celebration demanding decadence, I shaved an Oregon black truffle on top of the fresh out of the oven casserole. There are so many recipes for pastitsio out there, but I based this one off of Peter's recipe, writer of an amazing Greek food blog, Kalofagas. I noticed my layering is different than other written versions, but I am following my Aunt Mary's version.
Adapted from KalofagasMeat sauce
3 lbs ground buffalo
1/4 cup olive oil
2 red onions
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bottle stout beer (I used Bison Brewing Chocolate Stout)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 bay leaves
1 package bucatini noodles (can use penne)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup kefalotyri (or salty, semi-hard cheese)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
6 cups whole milk
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup grated kefalotyri cheese, or some sort of semi-hard salty cheese (I used Argentinian parmesan in this case)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
- Saute onions in olive oil until soft and translucent, add garlic, bay leaves and ground meat and brown on high heat.
- Add tomato paste, beer, tomatoes and oregano and bring to a boil, then reduce until sauce thickens. Add cinnamon.
Boil noodles in a large pot of salted water for about 10 minutes.
- In a large sauce pan, melt butter on medium heat. When melted add flour and stir with a wooden stick for about 5 minutes until golden brown.
- Slowly pour milk into roux, stirring constantly with a whisk to squash any forming lumps.
- Go back to stirring with a wooden spoon and bring bechamel sauce to a boil on medium heat.
- Continue stirring until sauce thickens, or sauce coats back of wooden spoon.
- Take bechamel off heat and slowly stir in eggs.
- Stir in 3/4 cup cheese and nutmeg (save rest of cheese for topping).
- Cover and reserve for assembly.
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Add noodles to large casserole dish/roasting pan. Crack two eggs and sprinkle 1/2 cup grated cheese on top of noodles and mix with clean hands.
- Pour meat sauce on top on noodles.
- Pour bechamel sauce on top and sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese.
- Bake for about 1 hour, or until golden brown on top.
- Let set about 30 minutes before cutting in.