Pastitsio is a Greek-style macaroni cheese pie. In this easy family favourite recipe layers of ooey gooey macaroni cheese sandwich a spiced lamb mince. Recipe originally published in 2015 and was updated in March 2019 with new photos.
What is Pastitsio?
Pastitsio sometimes spelt pastichio, is a Greek baked pasta dish with made ground meat and béchamel sauce.
Recipes vary, but the traditional pastitsio usually has a base of tubular pasta (like bucatini) with an egg and/or cheese mix to bind.
This is topped with a layer of ground beef and/or ground pork with tomato sauce, cinnamon and cloves. The top pasta layer is mixed with a béchamel sauce seasoned with nutmeg or allspice, and the whole dish is topped with a layer of grated goat cheese.
In Cyprus, a similar dish is made with ground lamb, as I’ve done with my recipe, which is flavoured with mint, parsley or cinnamon. It’s usually served at Easter time with a spit roast.
A version of this recipe was given to me by my Canadian father who brought a photocopy of it with him on one of his visits many years ago.
I’ve been making it regularly (except for that period between now and last Christmas where I was on a strict diet!) and it’s a firm family favourite in our house.
* Note – the original recipe I’d shared back in 2015 included a recipe and photographs showing pastitsio made with cheddar cheese instead of the traditional Greek Kefalotiri cheese.
I’ve been rightfully chastised in a reader comment below – no self-respecting Greek woman would use cheddar in her Greek macaroni pie.
In March 2019 I updated this recipe. I still can not source Kefalotiri cheese, so I’ve substituted it with Parmesan, as she suggested (but I’m not giving up the cumin!). The original cheddar was my father’s variation, and although it tastes fabulous, it’s not pastitsio. See recipe notes for more information.
This morning I hit the floor running. It was go-go-go all day, with my not finding the time to scoff breakfast until about half-past one in the afternoon (and even that was a hurried banana while heading off to another meeting!).
I’d taken a packet of lamb mince out of the freezer last night with no idea of what I was going to do with it, but come time to make dinner I was in a carbohydrates sort of mood.
A macaroni and cheese sort of mood.
Macaroni and cheese with a layer of lamb mince spiced with toasted cumin kind of mood.
Pastitsio it would be!
Ingredients needed for Pastitsio – Greek Macaroni Cheese Pie
- 235 grams / 2 cups dry elbow macaroni
- 2 tbsp olive oil – I use Pomora
- one large brown onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 500 grams/ 1 lb ground lamb (or beef or pork)
- 300 ml lamb stock (made with the reserved pasta cooking water)
- 2 tsp tomato puree
- 1 tsp cumin seeds – toasted and ground
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 50 grams/ 1/4 cup butter
- 50 grams/ 1/3 cup plain flour
- 135 grams/ 1/2 cup plain natural yoghurt
- 125 ml/ 1/2 cup full-fat milk
- 80 grams/ 1.5 cups Kefalotyri cheese (substitute with Romano or Parmesan cheese – see recipe notes)
- salt and pepper
How to make Pastitsio – Greek Macaroni Cheese Pie – Step-by-step Instructions
- Cook your macaroni according to packet instructions. Reserve some of the pasta water to make the stock, and rinse the cooked macaroni under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a pan and saute the onion & garlic until softened. Add the lamb mince, season well, and cook until browned. Add the stock, tomato puree and spices, reduce heat and simmer until thickened.
- Make a béchamel sauce with the butter, flour, yoghurt and milk. Stir in half of the cheese.
- Mix the cheese sauce with the cooked, cold macaroni and spoon half into the bottom of a pie dish.
- Top with the lamb layer and add the remaining macaroni cheese.
- Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake at 180 C/ 375 F for 30 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbly on top.
Pastitsio – Greek Macaroni Cheese Pie – Recipe Video
Pastitsio is a Greek-style macaroni cheese pie. In this easy family favourite recipe layers of ooey gooey macaroni cheese sandwich a spiced lamb mince.
As an aside – did anyone else catch that almost total eclipse today? Did anyone else ‘not’ look directly at it because they didn’t have a proper set of eyewear or a DIY eclipse viewing box thingy. Yea, me neither – that would be silly.
Ok, I did have a sideways glance at it while the clouds cleared briefly. Apparently the birds stopped singing for the duration of the eclipse, but to be honest it didn’t get any darker than it normally does on a rainy, cloudy day! I was glad the children at the local school had the opportunity to witness it though, with everyone outside with protective eyewear. The kids couldn’t stop speaking about it over dinner! The next one won’t be for another 15 years, so I’m delighted they had the opportunity to witness this one.
Check out that gorgeous salad in the photos – that beauty is the best salad mix I have ever eaten. Today was veg box day with our veg box collected from its top-secret bus shelter drop off point midway between our house and the growers. No dressing is needed – the mix of salad leaves range in flavour and texture making for the perfect side.
Things are growing and the light is returning – Spring is in the air!
Pastitsio - Greek Macaroni Pie
- 235 grams dry elbow macaroni reserve the pasta water
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 garlic cloves
- 500 grams lean lamb mince
- 1 lamb stock pot
- 2 tsp tomato puree
- 1 tsp cumin seeds toasted and ground
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp fresh mint leaves
- 50 grams unsalted butter
- 50 grams plain flour
- 135 grams plain natural yogurt
- 125 ml full fat milk
- 80 grams Kefalotyri cheese or Parmesan
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 375 F.
- Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the macaroni according to the package instructions, until al dente. About 8 minutes. Reserve 300 ml of the pasta cooking water to make your stock with.
- Drain the pasta in a colander and pour over plenty of cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saute pan.
- Gently saute the onion and garlic for 8-10 minutes, until softened. Add the lamb mince, season well with salt and pepper, and cook until browned all over.
- Mix the lamb stock cube with the pasta water to make a lamb stock, and pour into the lamb mixture along with the ground spices, tomato puree and chopped mint.
- Simmer, gently, for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture is thick.
- Heat the butter in a small saucepan until melted and beginning to bubble. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the milk and yogurt.
- Return to the heat and cook gently for a further five minutes. Remove from the heat again and stir in half of the grated cheese.
- Mix the cooked macaroni with the cheese sauce and spoon half of the mixture into the bottom of a medium sized baking dish.
- Spoon over the spiced lamb mince and top with the remaining macaroni. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and bubbly.
- Serve with a side salad!
Beef & Cheddar Mac & Cheese VariationSimply replace the lamb with ground beef and use beef stock instead of lamb stock. Replace the Kefalotyri (or Parmesan) with 135 grams/ 1.5 cups of grated mature cheddar.
How many Watchers Points in pastitsio?There are 20 Smart Points per serving of this recipe.
How to make the BEST mac and cheese
This recipe tastes incredible when made with cheddar cheese (but it’s not pastitsio!), as shown in the old photos above. Simply replace the lamb mince with beef mince, and use 135 grams/ 1.5 cups of grated mature cheddar cheese.
Other mac and cheese recipes you might like
- Macaroni Cheese with Bacon, Leeks & Peas – another of our family favourites!
- Scotch Lamb Mac n Cheese – Scottish comfort food at its best and then some!
- Smoked Salmon & Leek Macaroni Cheese – inspired by a fabulous lunch at Mat Follas’ Bramble Cafe.
- Cauliflower & Broccoli Mac and Cheese – all in one simple and ultimately satisfying dish.
- Mac and Cheese – an easy one-pot camping recipe.
- Healthy Mac and Cheese – a big bowl for under 350 calories and it tastes delicious!
- Instant Pot Mac and Cheese – five ways!