Don’t exit just quite yet if you don’t like the word, “Vegetarian”. This wonderful
alternative to the classic dish, Traditional Pastitsio
, is made with mushrooms and zucchini instead of ground meat, but trust me that
it is still full of flavor and maybe even more addictive. If you don’t believe me, believe my Greek husband, he approved it and has already requested it again soon!
With a slightly healthier spin, this dish is still very Greek. The sauce still has a hit of cinnamon and the béchamel still has a hint of nutmeg. In this recipe, the amounts are more slight so if you prefer a bolder taste then use a little extra spice!
Vegetarian Pastitsio “Greek Lasagna” Recipe: Serves 6-8
1/2 kilo (~1 lbs.) variety of brown and white mushrooms*
1-2 medium zucchini, chopped*
1-2 medium white onions, chopped
1/8 cup EVOO
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp. Greek oregano
salt and pepper
1/2 T. tomato paste
1/2 – 1 can crushed tomatoes
a little less than a 1/4 cup dry white wine
1 all-spice berry
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 – 1 pkg. pastitsio or bucantini
noodles (substitute just penne would work too)
1/2 – 3/4 cup Kefalotyri (Ramano or another hard cheese)
Saute onions and zucchini in the olive oil on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, add the garlic and bay leaves and cook another 3-5 minutes, until fragrant. Add the chopped mushrooms and clove(s) and raise the heat to medium high, add the wine and tomato paste. Cook until almost all the wine has cooked off, then add the can of tomatoes, salt and pepper, cinnamon, and oregano, lower to a simmer for 15-20 minutes. Turn off heat and let rest.
*You can easily replace your veggies with anything of your choice: mixed spinach greens, eggplant, or anything you’d like, don’t hesitate to make it your own!
Cook your noodles in a large pot of salted water until al dente, with a slight bite or firmness remaining (about 10-12 minutes).
Béchamel Sauce Recipe:
1/2 stick butter (~50-75g.)
1/2 cup AP flour
5 cups warm whole milk
4 eggs, room temperature
1/2 – 1 cup grated hard cheese (vlahotyri, romano, parmesan, ect)
salt and pepper
1/2 – 3/4 tsp. nutmeg
More hard cheese to grate on top
Add butter to a medium large saucepan and melt on medium heat. Add flour and whisk constantly until turns a warm golden brown, about 5-7 minutes depending on your heat. Continue whisking briskly while you steadily stream in your warm milk making a nice roux. Make sure you do not have any lumps, if you start to see them forming, simply whisk faster (you can use a mixer if you have a whisking beater). Now, bring to a slight boil while stirring with a wooden spoon. You want your roux to thicken but not turn into a batter. Remove from heat and cool slightly for 5 minutes. Whisk all of your eggs together and slowly stream them into your roux, mixing quickly to avoid scrambling. Now, add your cheese and seasonings.
Once everything is ready, you can preheat your oven to 190°/375° and assemble your dish. Lightly oil your small – medium baking dish and mix 1 ladle of your béchamel sauce into your veggie mix and 2 ladles into your drained pasta. Lightly oil and add enough veggie/tomato sauce (not béchamel) to coat the bottom of your dish. Then, add 1/2 of your noodles. Follow with your veggie sauce and then repeat with remaining noodles. Top with the remaining béchamel sauce and grated cheese. Bake in a hot oven for 30-45 minutes. You want your edges to be bubbly and the cheese to be golden brown. Rest at least 30 minutes before serving to help set-up and make easier to dish out and hold form!
This time, I only had less than half a package of pastitsio noodles, but I didn’t realize it until I had already started cooking. I substituted the bottom noodles for regular, flat lasagna noodles, it worked perfect; minus the bountiful pasta difference in the pictures.
Although this dish takes a little effort and a lot of cleaning pots and pans, it is totally worth it. Make it once or twice and you will get the hang of it in no time!
It is officially Holy Week here and this is the beginning of the biggest 2 weeks of the year. Stay tuned for more info on how Greeks celebrate Easter! This is one holiday that is definitely more special in Greece.