Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna)

Ingredients:

Bechamel Sauce:

    6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1 quart whole milk, warmed until hot
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    3 large eggs

Main dish:

    4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    2 medium onions, chopped
    2 pounds 90% lean ground beef
    1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    salt and pepper, to taste
    1/2 cup water
    2 tablespoon tomato paste
    1 pound ziti pasta
    3 large eggs, beaten
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    12 to 16 ounces Kasseri or Kefalotiri cheese, grated

Directions:

    Prepare the bechamel sauce:  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Whisk in the flour and then gradually whisk in the hot milk.  Cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is smooth and thickened.  Stir in the salt, remove from heat and let cool.  When the sauce is lukewarm, whisk in the eggs.  Set aside.


    Prepare the meat layer:  Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet.  Add the onions and saute until softened and golden.  Crumble the beef into the skillet and cook with the onions until the beef is browned.  Stir in the cinnamon, salt and pepper.  Stir in the water and tomato paste, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Set aside.


    Prepare the pasta layer:  Cook ziti according to directions on the package.  Drain and rinse with cool water.  When pasta has cooled down, stir in the beaten eggs and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.


    Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a deep 9x13-inch casserole dish with nonstick spray.  You really need a deep casserole dish for this recipe (deeper than the usual 9x13-inch pyrex).


    Assemble the dish:  Scoop half of the pasta into the bottom of your prepared dish.  Sprinkle generously with cheese.  Spoon on the meat mixture to create an even layer; sprinkle with another layer of cheese.  Scoop the remaining pasta on top of the meat and sprinkle with more cheese!  Top with the cream sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.


    Bake 45 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and golden on top.  Let sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before serving (but it is suggested that you refrigerate to let the layers set... and then warm up later to serve).

   
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