|Place of origin||Greece|
|Main ingredients||ground beef, béchamel sauce|
Pastitsio (Greek: παστίτσιο, pastítsio) is a baked pasta dish with ground meat and béchamel sauce found in Greek, Cypriot, Egyptian, and Maltese cuisine. Though derived from the Italian pasticcio, it has evolved to be a distinctive dish.
Name and origin
Pastitsio takes its name from the Italian pasticcio, a large family of baked savory pies which may be based on meat, fish, or pasta, with many documented recipes from the early 16th century, and continuing to modern times. Italian versions include a pastry crust; some include béchamel.
The word pasticcio is attested by the 16th century as "any manner of pastie or pye" and comes from the vulgar Latin word pastīcium derived from pasta, and means "pie", and has developed the figurative meanings of "a mess", "a tough situation", or a pastiche.
The most popular contemporary variant of pastitsio was invented by Nikolaos Tselementes, a French-trained Greek chef of the early 20th century. Before him, pastitsio had a filling of pasta, liver, meat, eggs, and cheese, did not include béchamel, and was wrapped in filo, similar to the most Italian pasticcio recipes, which were wrapped in pastry: "he completely changed the dish and made it a kind of au gratin".
The Tselementes version—which is now ubiquitous—has a bottom layer that is bucatini or other tubular pasta, with cheese and/or egg as a binder; a middle layer of ground beef, or a mix of ground beef and ground pork with tomato sauce, cinnamon and cloves. Other spices like nutmeg or allspice are used in the top layer that is a béchamel or a mornay sauce. Grated goat cheese is often sprinkled on top. Pastitsio is a common dish, and is often served as a main course, with a salad.
In Cyprus, it is an essential dish during weddings and celebrations such as Easter, where it is served along with spit roasted meat. Recipes vary, but usually the meat sauce in the middle is made of pork, beef or lamb, tomatoes are only sometimes used, and it is flavoured with mint, parsley or cinnamon. The top is sprinkled with grated halloumi or anari cheese, though cheese is sometimes added only to the white sauce.
The Egyptian version is called مكارونا بيشاميل makarōna beshamel in Egyptian Arabic, i.e. "macaroni with béchamel". The dish is typically made with penne or macaroni pasta, a minced-meat sauce with tomato and onion, and a white sauce often enriched with Rumi cheese. Egg or cheese may also be baked on top.
In Malta, timpana (the name probably derived from timballo) is made by tossing parboiled macaroni in a tomato sauce containing a small amount of minced beef or corned beef, bound with a mixture of raw egg and grated cheese. Hard-boiled eggs are sometimes added. The macaroni is then enclosed in a pastry case or lid before being baked. A similar dish without the pastry casing is imqarrun.
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