Pastitsio for a Party


Beard on Pasta

Published by Running Press

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

This is one of the best Greek dishes I know, a good oven dish that’s very rich and full flavored. It comes from Leon Lianides, the owner of the original Coach House, which is now closed.

12 servings

Cooking Methodbaking


Total Timehalf-day

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course


Moodadventurous, blue

Taste and Texturebubbly, cheesy, creamy, garlicky, herby, juicy, meaty, rich, savory, spiced

Type of Dishbaked pasta


  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1½ pounds ground lean beef
  • 2 pounds ground lean lamb
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 7 cups light cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1½ cups flour
  • Good pinch of nutmeg
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1½ pounds elbow macaroni or ziti
  • 1½ cups grated Romano cheese


  1. First make your meat sauce: In a large skillet, cook the onion in 3 tablespoons butter. When the onion is transparent, add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the meats and cook over high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until the meat is no longer red. Season with ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and the tomato sauce, oregano, cinnamon, basil, bay leaf, parsley, and wine. Cook the sauce, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. This meat sauce can be prepared in advance and kept in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to use it. I never think that far ahead about what I plan to eat, but it’s a useful idea if you are making the pastitsio for a party.

  2. To make the cream sauce: Bring 6 cups of the cream just to a boil with the milk. In another saucepan, melt 1 cup butter. Add the flour, stirring with a wire whisk. When the roux is blended and smooth, pour in the hot cream and milk, stirring furiously with the whisk to keep it from lumping. Cook until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Turn off the heat and let the sauce cool for 10 minutes before you add the eggs.

  3. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with the unheated cup of cream. Gradually add about 2 cups of the warm cream sauce to this egg mixture, beating all the while to make sure that the eggs don’t curdle. Then pour the egg mixture into the cream sauce, continuing to stir until everything is blended. Finally, beat in the ricotta.

  4. Butter the inside of a large, deep baking dish. This recipe will need a dish at least 15-by-9-by-4 inches. Cook and drain the macaroni. Place half the macaroni in the dish and sprinkle with half the Romano. Spoon on half the cream sauce, smoothing it with the back of a large spoon. Spread on all of the meat sauce. Now add the rest of the macaroni, the rest of the cream sauce, and the rest of the grated cheese, and place in a 400° oven. Bake for 55 minutes, when the pastitsio should be covered with a golden-brown crust.

  5. If you want to serve it in neatly cut squares, you should finish cooking the pastitsio at least 6 hours before you intend to serve it. Leave it out on the kitchen counter or, if the day is warm, place it in the refrigerator. Then cut the casserole into serving portions and reheat before serving.


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