Ground Beef Pastitsio Pasta

This Ground Beef Pastitsio Pasta is one of those recipes that never fails to impress. Made with layers of noodles, meat, and béchamel sauce, this Greek pasta dish is sure to satisfy even the pickiest eaters!

This recipe for Greek pastitsio pasta is one of those ultimate comfort food meals. It’s cheesy, it’s carb-y (is that a word?), and it’s filled with perfectly seasoned ground beef that’s all smothered in a velvety béchamel sauce. What’s not to love? This recipe is reminiscent of my béchamel lasagna recipe – both are super cozy dinner ideas that pretty much check all the boxes.

What is Pastitsio? 

Pastitsio (also known as Pastichio) is a traditional Greek recipe sometimes called “Greek lasagna” by Americans. While both kinds of pasta dishes are baked, pastitsio is usually made with tubular noodles vs. lasagna, which is made with lasagna noodles. For this reason, I tend to think of pastitsio as a kind of baked ziti made with béchamel sauce.

What is the difference between moussaka and pasticcio?

The main difference is that instead of pasta noodles, moussaka is made with fried eggplant as the base of the dish.

A slice of pastitsio with all its pasta, meat, and béchamel layers.

Recipe Ingredients

For the ground beef:

  • Olive oil
  • Red onion: Chopped. I like the sweet flavor of red onions, but you could also use another variety like vidalia or yellow onions if you prefer.
  • Garlic: Fresh cloves, minced.
  • Ground beef: Aim for lean ground beef that’s between 90 to 95% lean.
  • Tomato sauce
  • Salt
  • Spices: Ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, sweet paprika, and black pepper.

For the pasta:

  • Ziti pasta: Bucatini pasta is what’s traditionally used in Greece, though I had such difficulty finding it that I used ziti instead. If you can get your hands on bucatini, go ahead and use it!
  • Kefalotyri cheese: A Greek cheese, though you can also use grated pecorino.
  • Egg whites: Egg whites combine with the cheese to give the pasta noodles a creamy coating. Keep the egg yolks for the béchamel sauce, so nothing goes to waste!

For the béchamel sauce:

  • Unsalted butter
  • All-purpose flour: The flour is cooked together with butter to form the roux that is the base of the béchamel. 
  • Whole milk
  • Kefalotyri: Or pecorino cheese. 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Egg yolks

Topping:

  • Grated kefalotyri or pecorino cheese

What Kind of Noodles to Use

A traditional Greek pastitsio recipe calls for bucatini pasta. However, it’s surprisingly hard to come by at the moment! You can make an easy swap to other tubular kinds of pasta, like ziti or even penne. Of course, if you have bucatini available where you live, by all means, go the traditional route.

A slice of pastitsio with all its pasta, meat, and béchamel layers, on a plate with a fork.

How to Make Pastitsio

Here’s a quick rundown of how to make this recipe. Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for full instructions!

Cook the meat. Warm the olive oil, then soften the onions and then the garlic over medium heat, and add in the ground beef. Break it up as it browns, then stir in the tomato sauce, water, and spices. Cover and simmer the sauce for about 45 minutes or until it thickens, and then set it aside.

Make the pasta. Cook the pasta al dente per the package instructions. Drain the pasta and let it cool a little before adding in the grated cheese and egg whites (if the pasta is too hot, the egg whites will cook!). Stir everything until it’s well combined and then set this aside, too.

Make the béchamel sauce. In a saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour to make a quick roux. Pour in the milk, season with salt and pepper, and add in a pinch of nutmeg. Whisk the ingredients together while the sauce cooks, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese.

Next, whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl. Whisk in a tablespoon or two of the béchamel, then gradually combine this mixture into the sauce. Stir constantly while you do this, to make sure you have a smooth consistency. 

Assemble. While the oven preheats, grease a deep baking pan. Spoon half of the pasta into the pan and spread it evenly. Next, add the mince overtop, followed by the rest of the pasta. Pour the béchamel over the pasta in a smooth layer, and lastly give everything a sprinkle with grated cheese.

Bake. Bake the pastitsio until the top is golden and set. Once it’s out of the oven, wait at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving. This will let the casserole set up and you’ll have those beautiful distinctive layers when you cut into it!

A forkful of Greek pastitsio pasta.

Tips for Success

  • Make sure your dish is deep enough. It’s important that the baking dish you use is deep enough to fit all the pastitsio ingredients! For best results, use a 9×13 pan that’s about 3 inches deep.
  • Let the layers set up before serving. Give the casserole enough time to cool after it leaves the oven before slicing into it. The slices will hold a neat square shape much better when they’re cool, and you can always reheat the individual slices before serving. If you don’t care about clean slices then you can dig right in!

What to Serve with Pastitsio 

This pasta dinner goes well with a fresh salad and something bready on the side. A few suggestions:

How to Store and Reheat Extras

  • Fridge: Store extras in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat individual servings in the microwave until warmed through.
  • Freezer: This recipe freezes extremely well. Instead of freezing my pastitsio whole, I like to slice it up and store the individual slices in separate freezer-safe containers before placing them in the freezer. This makes it easy to thaw slices in the fridge overnight and then reheat them in the microwave until warmed through. You can keep pastitsio frozen for up to 1 month.
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Ground Beef Pastitsio Pasta

A slice of pastitsio with all its pasta, meat, and béchamel layers.
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This Ground Beef Pastitsio Pasta is one of those recipes that never fails to impress. Made with layers of noodles, meat, and bechamel sauce, this Greek pasta dish is sure to satisfy even the pickiest eaters!

  • Author: Rustic Family Recipes
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 12-14 servings
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Greek

Ingredients

For the ground beef:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the pasta:

  • 1 pound ziti pasta
  • 1/2 cup grated kefalotyri or pecorino cheese
  • 2 egg whites

For the béchamel sauce:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup grated kefalotyri or pecorino cheese
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 egg yolks

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup grated kefalotyri or pecorino cheese

Instructions

Cook the Ground Beef

  • Add olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion, stir and cook for 3-4 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic.
  • Add the ground beef and cook for 5-10 minutes, breaking it up as you cook, until the meat is well browned.
  • Add the tomato sauce, water and spices and stir everything together.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered for about 45 minutes or until the sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat and set aside while preparing the pasta.

Cook the Pasta

  • In a large pan, cook the pasta as per package instructions until al dente. Drain and let cool.
  • Return pasta to the pan and add the grated cheese and egg whites, mixing until combined. Set aside while making the béchamel sauce.

Make the bechamel sauce

  • In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat.
  • Add the flour and whisk for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg and whisk everything together. Cook for another 5 minutes and whisk as necessary.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the grated cheese.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
  • Take 1-2 tbsp of the béchamel and add it to the egg yolks whisking constantly.
  • Gradually add the egg mixture into the béchamel sauce and keep stirring constantly.

Assemble and Bake

  • Preheat oven to 350F and grease a deep 9×13-inch pan (about 3 inches deep).
  • Transfer half of the pasta mixture into the prepared pan, making sure it’s evenly distributed in the pan.
  • Top the pasta with the minced meat and smooth out the surface.
  • Add the other half of the pasta mixture on top of the minced meat.
  • Pour the béchamel sauce over the pasta mixture and smooth it out.
  • Top with remaining grated cheese and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and set. Let the pastitsio rest for at least 20 minutes before cutting into slices and serving.

Notes

Pastitsio can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. It can also be frozen in individual slices for up to 1 month.

Keywords: greek lasagna, ground beef pasta, bechamel pasta

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