Vegetable Pastitsio (a Greek’ish’ Lasagne)

PREP TIME: 15mins

COOKING TIME: 50mins

Is there anything better than a lasagne?

With its layers of pasta, rich cinnamon-spiked red wine sauce, topped with a thick layer of béchamel, THIS is the Greeks answer to Italian lasagne. 

In this recipe I ‘vegify’ this classic Greek dish, normally using lamb, into something equally delicious and comforting. Its the kind of pasta that can feed a crowd! 

Traditionally using buccatini pasta (really thick spaghetti with a hole running through it) I opted for more readily available cannelloni. 

I cooked my own green lentils but you can use tinned lentils too. However, I do prefer the texture of home cooked lentils especially if the lentils are going to have some extra oven time, but the choice is yours. 

This is an excellent freezer friendly ‘make-ahead’ dish, perfect for a large gathering of friends. 

Serves 6 or 4 with leftovers. 

Tips:

  • the red wine in the dish elevates it to a ‘grown up’ status, best to leave the wine out if you are sensitive to the taste or feeding little ones.
  • you can use any pasta you have at home and its a great dish to us up all the half packets of pasta in your cupboard.
  • its super quick to pulse the mushrooms in your food processor instead of chopping by hand.
  • there is a difference between allspice VS mixed spice (see kitchen note).

Serving Suggestion:

A simple side salad

What you'll need:

A large ovenproof baking dish

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 400g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice (not mixed spice)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 100ml red wine (opt)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 400g tin lentils, drained or 250g cooked green lentils
  • 1 cup & 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 250g cannelloni pasta
  • extra parmesan to grate on top

Béchamel

  • 50g butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 500ml full cream milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • pinch nutmeg

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onions, a pinch of salt and cook, covered until soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 3 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat right up, cook the mushrooms in batches (about a cup at a time), until brown and cooked through. Season really well with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the wine and cook until the wine has completely evaporated. Add the spices and cook until fragrant, 3 minutes, followed by the tomato puree and the tin of tomatoes. Stir well.
  5. Add the stock, lentils and bay leaves and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and season and remove, clean and set aside the bay leaves (to use later).
  6. Meanwhile cook the pasta until al dente, drain, and drizzle a little olive oil over the pasta to prevent is from sticking together.
  7. For the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, once melted add the flour and stir until all the butter is absorbed and the flour is clumped together. Add roughly a cup of milk to the flour and stir until smooth and the sauce is starting to thicken, continue this process, until all the milk is incorporated and the sauce has thickened, gently stir while the sauce bubbles for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the egg yolk, parmesan and a pinch nutmeg, stir and season well with salt. Set aside. See kitchen note below (if béchamel has set too thickly to pour over final dish).
  8. To assemble: drizzle a little olive oil at the base of the dish, add half the pasta to the bottom, filling all the gaps, followed by the mushroom sauce, another layer of pasta followed by the final layer of mushroom sauce. Pour over the béchamel sauce and grate over more parmesan, arrange the two bay leaves on top and bake in the oven for 25/30 minutes until bubbling.
  9. Serve immediately with a simple side salad and perhaps a chill relish on the side.

Kitchen Notes:

Allspice (made from allspice berries)  is not the same as mixed spice (a blend of mixed spices). However, there are ways to substitute the taste of allspice by confusingly combining a blend of certain spices, usually (cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves).  

Thickened béchamel. Béchamel will thicken as it ‘sits’. To reheat the bechamel to a pouring consistency, simply place the sauce back on the heat with a splash of milk, gently reheat and stir constantly adding more milk until the sauce is a pourable consistency, use immediately. 

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