This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.
A simple authentic recipe for Pastitsio- a baked Greek pasta dish with a rich flavorful lamb (or beef) bolognese infused with Greek spices and flavors. Perfect for entertaining!
A friend introduced Pastitsio to me a couple of years ago and I was instantly smitten. Deep, rich and hearty, this baked pasta dish has roots in Greece and the Middle East. It is perfect for special occasions or entertaining where you can share, and not be temped to devour the entire thing because believe me, you will want to. The last time I made this I immediately packaged up ⅔ of it to give to friends. You could also freeze half to save for later.
Ground lamb (or beef) is cooked with onion, garlic and spices then simmered with tomato sauce and infused with cinnamon until it becomes a deep, rich, Greek-style “bolognese” – the flavorful base of the dish. Add cooked penne to the meaty hearty sauce, and top it with a nutmeg infused béchamel, before going into the oven to bake. When it comes out, it’s bubbly and golden.
If you are a fan of the Rustic Eggplant Moussaka here on the blog, you will love this. It’s simpler but has the same authentic flavors.
Also, if you liking my new favorite 12 inch skillet as much as I am, be sure to check out Smithey Ironware– a great little company out of Charleston. I love cooking in this skillet and the design is beautiful!
I prefer to use sustainably raised, locally grown, American lamb, which is raised closer to home compared to imported lamb that travels from great distances to get here. For one, it’s fresher but more importantly, it supports our local community. It’s produced in nearly every state and is available fresh year round, just check your local farmers market. In years past we’ve bought ½ or ¼ of a lamb locally and kept it frozen, which is always an option too.
American lamb is always raised hormone-free and producers go to great lengths to give their animals healthy, comfortable lives, letting them graze and forage on a variety of nutrient-dense grasses and legumes – producing succulent, sweet and tender meat.
It starts with making the falvorful Lamb bolognese
Toss in the cooked pasta.
Top with the creamy Bechamel Sauce.
Sprinkle with cheese.
The bake the Pastitsio until golden and bubbly.
Your home will smell incredible.
It’s a pretty rich dish so serve it up with a leafy green salad.
More Ground Lamb Recipes:
- Turkish Lamb Wraps!
- Middle Eastern Meatball Soup
- Lamb Meatballs with Indian Curry Sauce
- Pastitsio | Baked Greek Pasta with Lamb
- Grilled Lamb Kofta Wraps
- Grilled Lamb Burger with Harissa Aioli
- Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Herb Salad and Yogurt Sauce
- Thai Larb Salad
- Turkish Cabbage Rolls
One of my favorite baked pasta recipes ever! I hope you give Pastitsio a try!
Pastitsio | Baked Greek Pasta with Lamb
- Prep Time: 50
- Cook Time: 60
- Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
- Yield: 10 1x
- Category: Main
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Greek
Pastitsio! A delicious Greek inspired, baked pasta dish made with penne pasta, lamb bolognese and a béchamel sauce.
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil or butter
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
- 2 extra large eggs, beaten
parmesan for sprinkling
Garnish : 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Start the lamb bolognese: heat oil in a large heavy bottom pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, ground meat and salt, breaking up the meat with a metal spatula. Cook 10-12 minutes, stirring often until onions are tender and meat is browned. Drain any fat. Splash with the red wine and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes, then add garlic and cinnamon, cumin, oregano and pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes until garlic is fragrant. Stir in crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer on low heat, covered, for 20 minutes. Taste, add more salt if you like.
Preheat oven to 400 F
While this is simmering, boil the pasta water and make the béchamel sauce: Heat the oil in a medium pot, over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the oil into a smooth paste and cook for 60 seconds. Whisk in 1 cup milk until smooth and thickened, then immediately, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk and whisk until smooth and thickened again. Add salt, nutmeg, white pepper and parmesan, and stir until cheese melts and sauce is smooth. Set aside and let cool for 10 minutes.
Cook the pasta and drain.
Once the béchamel has cooled 10 minutes (warm is ok, just not hot), stir int the yogurt and beaten egg.
Assemble: Add the cooked pasta to the Bolognese sauce and mix. Pour into a large greased baking dish (9×13) or 12-inch oven-proof skillet. Top with the béchamel sauce covering it evenly. Sprinkle with ½ cup more parmesan and scatter with fresh thyme leaves. Bake 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
Feel free to make the Bolognese ahead.
This will keep 4-5 days in the fridge.
- Serving Size: 1.5 cups
- Calories: 433
- Sugar: 6.9 g
- Sodium: 466.8 mg
- Fat: 30.3 g
- Saturated Fat: 10.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 13.6 g
- Fiber: 1.9 g
- Protein: 26.7 g
- Cholesterol: 113.8 mg
Keywords: pastitsio, pastitsio recipe, baked pasta with lamb, greek pasta, greek pasta recipe lamb,
lol this person either has three arms or has never actually followed the steps in the recipe. At the end of the day, this dish is hard to mess up & is very yummy.
Sorry this took longer than planned. I usually am cook several things at the same time here- but in any case, I adjusted the cooking time higher.
First time making pastitsio. My husband and I both think this recipe is delicious. He said I should put it in my new “rotation” personal recipe book. Since it’s just the two of us I halved everything and it filled an 8×8 glass baking dish. Thank you Sylvia! K
Great to hear and glad you enjoyed it!
White pepper would have made the dish impeccable. I had to substitute. We tend to not like cumin, so I used smoked paprika. This recipe is a keeper!!!
I want to try this as it sounds delicious. What do think about adding eggplant (fried) and how would you incorporate it?
Interesting Sue, I can’t quite picture that here- but you never know- it could be great! I would fold in the crispy eggplant right before baking the pastitsio, so it doesn’t get too soggy.
Was just given a large amount of eggplant and was thinkin thge same way. Think you would prepare the eggplant as usual with a brushing of olive oil and bake. Then use it in place of the pasta.
Sounds a lot like Eggplant Mousakka!
Do i use 1lb of beef mince or 2lb?
Hi Lindsay- you’ll need 2 lbs of ground meat total. You could use 1lb ground lamb plus 1 lb ground beef if you like.
Arghh, i already made it, and it smells very cinnamonny! Is there anything that i can add to counteract this as i have less mince? Thanks
Oh shoot. The pasta may soak some of the cinnamon up?
The cinnamon is just the recipe. However, if you not like cinnamon try using Greek Seasoning, instead. It won’t be the recipe but you might enjoy it with the change.
Oops, forgot to add, change the parmesan to mozzarella or goat cheese.
This was delicious!!! The only thing I changed was that I used “pasta” made from chickpeas but it held well. Would definitely make again
Oh perfect Marie!
This was the most delicious meal I have made in quite some time….! Followed the ingredients and directions as written and it turned out wonderfully. Thank you for putting together a great dish!!!
Thanks Tracy- I love this one too!
You should include a RECIPE_BOX application with your site, so the User can save your recipes in an organized fashion. I have been a programmer for almost 50 years and I highly recommend this addition. Saving now and printing later is “the way to go.” Look at the New York Times Recipes, Taste of Home, Closet Cooking, for example.
Hi Helen, we are getting a brand new site made this year and it will include that feature. 😉
Could I substitute cooked rice for the pasta? Any adjustments?
Hi Barbee- I love your idea of using cooked rice. Brilliant! I wouldn’t make any other adjustments. The only question is how much rice to use. Not sure if the 3/4 lb measurement for pasta will translate well to the rice. You may have to eyeball it a bit. 🙂 Please let me know how this turns out…curious!
Gorgeous! Easy recipe to follow and this will be a regular meal now. Thank you!
Great to hear Joanne!
I happened to have ground pork, used that. Made the bechamel sauce with 2% milk and olive oil and a little bit of butter. The other thing I used was chickpea penne. Delicious!
I followed this recipe precisely and found that the bechamel sauce collapsed on the meat and noodles. I suspect that the recommended heat was too high and the dish was over cooked. In the future, I will follow my tried and true recipe for pastitsio substituting round lamb for ground beef and bake it at 375 instead of 400.
What is the best way to make this ahead? Freeze after Bechamel sauce has cooled?
I would almost bake this, then freeze, then thaw and reheat. But honestly, I’m not an expert in the freezing department- you probably know more than me. 🙂
Thanks 🙂 Making three of these for a charity/neighborhood food event.
OMG followed this recipe for dinner and it was amazing!!! Soo delicious, We love lamb and of course any kind of pasta and this was hands down the best combination of two, I’ve ever cooked. The bechamel sauce is heaven! Love all your recipes. Sissy
Yesterday, I made this recipe as written, although halved since there are just two of us. I used ground beef since I didn’t have ground lamb on hand and sour cream in place of greek yogurt for the same reason. I would add a little acid when serving next time, maybe greek olives or a squeeze of lemon.
Could you sub lentils for the meat to make it veg?
I don’t see why not? Just make sure it’s seasoned generously. 🙂