CAUCASUS CYPRUS GREECE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN
Tourists visiting the Mediterranean islands of Crete, Cyprus, Malta, Sicily and Sardinia might be forgiven for thinking there is an ad hoc competition among their restaurants to see who produces the best pasta bake. The Greeks of course will tell you their pastitsio is the best and the rest are mere imitations.
And there is the dilemma, each chef – domestic and professional – has their own interpretation, albeit subtle tweaks that are not always discernable.
We have favoured an eastern Mediterranean sensibility with cheese custard for the topping rather than a white sauce, thick tube pasta cooked and dressed with eggs and cheese, and a meat filling flavoured with onion, marjoram, mint, parsley and thyme.
- 500 g penne / rigatoni pasta
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 90 g hard cheese
- 60 g butter
- 5 g black pepper
- Salt, large pinch
- 2 gratings of nutmeg
- 750 g beef / lamb / pork mince
- 250 g onion, thin sliced
- 125 ml meat stock
- 45 ml dry white wine
- 30 ml vegetable oil
- 5 g black pepper
- 5 g salt
- 5 sprigs parsley, chopped small
- 10 mint leaves, chopped small
- 5 sprigs marjoram
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 1 litre full-fat milk
- 500 g halloumi cheese, grated
- 4 eggs, whisked
- 45 g cornflour
- 30 ml water
- 90 g kefalotiri cheese / hard cheese, grated
- Butter, for greasing
Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, drain and place in a large bowl. Melt butter and pour over the pasta. Add the cheese and seasonings, toss, add eggs and toss again. Set aside.
Sauté onion in oil for 10 minutes, add the meat and cook until brown. Add the wine, stock, herbs and seasonings, simmer for 20 minutes until almost all of the liquid has been reduced. Leave to cool.
Whisk the eggs and milk for the topping in a pot, bring slowly to the boil. Whisk the water into the cornflour, pour slowly into the egg-milk mixture, heat gradually until the mixture begins to thicken, add the cheese.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Grease a large baking tray, place half of the pasta mixture on the bottom, follow with the meat mixture, the remaining pasta mixture and the cheese custard. Sprinkle the top with the grated hard cheese.
Bake for 50 minutes.