Pastitsio Recipe (a layered lamb & pasta casserole)

Here’s a recipe for pastitsio, a classic Greek dish with layers of lamb and pasta in a rich tomato sauce, topped with a creamy béchamel sauce, and baked to perfection.


For the Meat Sauce:

  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

For the Pasta:

  • 1 lb penne or ziti pasta
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

For the Béchamel Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat to make the meat sauce. Add the chopped onions, garlic, and sauté until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the ground lamb and cook until browned, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks. Drain any excess fat.
  3. Stir in the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, red wine, tomato paste, oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld together.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Add butter and grated Parmesan cheese to the cooked pasta and toss to coat.
  5. To make the béchamel sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, until lightly golden. Gradually whisk in the milk, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Cook, constantly whisking, until the sauce thickens and comes to a simmer, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat.
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. Slowly whisk in a ladleful of the hot béchamel sauce into the eggs to temper them. Then, gradually whisk the tempered eggs into the sauce. Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese and mix well.
  7. To assemble the pastitsio, spread half of the cooked pasta in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Spoon the meat sauce evenly over the pasta. Top with the remaining pasta, spreading it out in an even layer. Pour the béchamel sauce over the top, spreading it out to cover the pasta completely.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
  9. Serve hot and enjoy the delicious layers of lamb, pasta, and creamy béchamel sauce in this classic Greek pastitsio!

Pastitsio can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before baking. Just be sure to increase the baking time by 10-15 minutes if baking from chilled. Leftovers also make great next-day meals!

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