Dare to Dream, Make a Meal: Pastitsio!

It was Jacques Houdek who once said, ‘Dare to dream, make a meal’ – ok yes, that wasn’t quite the lyric, but with this year’s slogan ‘Dare to Dream’ why not make a few adaptations! With this year’s contest quickly approaching, it’s time to start planning your Eurovision parties. With the help of Eurovision Union, you can plan out the ultimate Eurovision party for you and your friends!

Over the last month, we’ve gathered some of the tastiest and most intriguing dishes from across the participating nations and we have put our aprons on to test out these recipes! We selected a diverse range of food, as well as both savoury and sweet dishes, so if you are hosting a Eurovision party this year, you can take inspiration from our cooking adventures across Europe and recreate these dishes for you and your friends!

Pastitsio (Greece)

This is a dish that is close to my heart, and like the Cypriot Keftedes (read that post here), Pastitsio is a dish that brings back good memories. Essentially Pastitsio is the Greek answer to Pasta bake. If you are going for just finger foods at your Eurovision party, this dish might not be ideal, but if you want something that you can make in a bigger amount and have guests dish their own plate of food, this is perfect.

As was explained in my Cypriot Keftedes post, this is a dish that is recipe that has come from the wisdom of my talented aunt who like many, cook based on familiarity with the dish rather than a written recipe. As such, there will be a bit of an informal recipe based on our cooking together, however below that I will also post a recipe that I have also tried but has the advantages of precise measurements.

Here is our very casual family recipe:

Ingredients

  • 500g Penne Pasta
  • 2 medium brown onions, diced
  • Garlic (to taste), chopped
  • 750g mince (we used chicken, but traditionally pork is used)
  • 1 – 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 tin of canned, diced tomatoes
  • Oil (for frying)
  • 2 cups of Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Dried mint
  • Bunch of fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter
  • Milk

Instructions:

  • Fry the onions until soft. Add the garlic and tomato paste and continue to cook
  • Add the mince and cook until brown. Add the tinned tomatoes as well as salt and pepper to taste, and also nutmeg and cinnamon to taste
  • Add the chopped parsley to the mince mixture
  • Meanwhile, briefly cook the pasta. Don’t cook to the instructions on the packet, only boil for around 2-3 minutes as the pasta will cook in the oven
  • Drain the pasta, and put in a separate bowl then add the cheese as well as the eggs and mint
  • Spray a baking dish, then add half the pasta mix and layer with the meat mixture. Add the remaining pasta mix on top
  • To make the topping, melt butter in a pot and add flour, briefly cook out and then begin to add milk and continue to whisk until thickened
  • Add topping to the pasta bake, and place in the oven at around 180 degrees Celsius for approximately an hour. If the topping starts to brown too early in the baking time, cover with foil

Here’s what we started with:

And here is our finished product!

Here is a more precise recipe (credit: George Calombaris via Good Food)

Prep time: 30 mins

Cook time: 1hr 55mins

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 250g long macaroni or bucatini
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped lemon thyme
  • 1 tbsp rosemary
  • 300g lamb mince^
  • 100g pork mince
  • 100g veal mince
  • 250g crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cinnamon sticks+
  • 100g grated Kefalograviera cheese

For the Béchamel sauce*:

  • 100g butter
  • 2/3 cup (100g) plain flour
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100g Kefalograviera cheese

Instructions:

  • Cook pasta according to packet directions. Drain. Toss pasta and half of oil, then spread over a baking tray to cool
  • Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a large pan on medium. Cook onion, garlic, thyme and rosemary, stirring, for 5 mins, until soft. Add minces and cook for 5 mins, until browned. Add tomato, tomato paste and cinnamon. Reduce heat to love, cover and simmer for 1 hr, until thickened. Season.
  • Meanwhile, to make béchamel sauce, melt butter in a large saucepan on low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 2 mins until mixture bubbles. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly, for 3-5 mins, until sauce bubbles and thickens. Remove from heat, cover with a lid and cool for 10 mins. Whisk in egg and kefalograviera cheese, and season to taste
  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius or 180 fan forced
  • Add remaining kefalogravera cheese to pasta and toss to combine. Place over base of prepared dish. Spoon over meat sauce and top with béchamel sauce. Bake for 45 mins, until béchamel sauce is set and golden brown. Spoon into bowls and serve.

^ We often use just 500g of Chicken mince, or just 500g of the same mince rather than different meats. It’s up to taste and what’s available to you!

+ We use ground cinnamon rather than the cinnamon sticks

*An alternative version of this is to use 5 cups of milk and 5 ½ tbsp. of cornflour

Beer List

Our resident beer expert has done research (and a whole lot of tasting) to come up with some of the must-try beers of the nation. For each nation there are three suggestions:

  • The National Treasure – this is a beer that is recognisable and accessible to buy
  • The Party Starter – this is a nicer alternative, but still fairly accessible to buy
  • The Show Stopper – this is for the beer enthusiasts or those with a sense of adventure, but may not be as easy to purchase outside of that nation

Greece

The National Treasure – Mythos (Pale Lager – 4.6%)

The Party Starter – Seven Island Citra Blast IPA (American IPA – 6.5%)

The Show Stopper – Solo Skotidi (Imperial Stout – 9.0%)

Listen to our Dare to Dream playlist below:

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