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Vegetarian Greek Pastitsio

YASSAS! Welcome to my wife’s recipe for vegetarian pastitsio.

Marrying into a Greek-American family is like signing up for a new language course. 

“Hey, koúkla, bring me my pantoúfles so I can whip up some loukoumades to go with the moussaka and the avgolemono before Yiayia gets here!”

I didn’t mind because it introduced me to what I think is one of the most underappreciated cuisines in western civilization––Greek cuisine. Above all, it introduced me to pastitsio––a pasta dish with ground meat topped with bechamel sauce.

But because I don’t really eat meat anymore, my wife adapted a traditional meat-based pastitsio recipe and made it vegetarian with cinnamon-spiced lentils. It’s become one of my favorite things to eat and sous chef for. So, I wanted to share with you, especially all of my fellow Xenos out there.

Vegetarian Greek Pastitsio

Vegetarian Greek Pastitsio

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Course Main Course
Cuisine Greek
Servings 12 people

Ingredients
  

For The Noodles

  • 300 g Uncooked bucatini pasta
  • 1 egg white
  • 25 g parmesan cheese grated

For The Lentil Mix

  • 1 large yellow onion chopped
  • 4 stalks celery chopped
  • 3 carrots chopped
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 500 ml tomato sauce
  • 4 bay leaves
  • cinnamon to taste
  • nutmeg to taste
  • oregano to taste
  • basil to taste

For The Bechamel

  • 60 g all-purpose flour
  • 60 g butter
  • 500 ml milk plant-based or dairy
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 25 g parmesan cheese grated
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • nutmeg to taste
  • cinnamon to taste

Instructions
 

For The Lentil Mix

  • Heat up a pan with enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Once hot, add your chopped onion. After about 7-10 minutes, once the onions are translucent, add your garlic, carrots, and celery. Stir that around and add your lentils.
  • Let all of those ingredients sauté for a bit, adding salt and pepper to taste. After about five minutes, add your tomato sauce, vegetable stock, bay leaves, fresh basil, and season with cinnamon, nutmeg, oregano, and dried basil. Bring it to a boil and then lower the heat, covering the top.
  • Meanwhile, boil your bucatini noodles, drain them, and put them at the bottom of a baking dish. Once the noodles have cooled down, mix one egg white with 25 grams of parmesan cheese and coat the noodles with the mixture.

For The Bechamel Sauce

  • As your lentil mix continues to simmer, start making your bechamel sauce by melting 60 grams of butter in a pot. Once it's melted, start adding in your 60 grams of all-purpose flour slowly and while mixing. This will create a paste.
  • Then, start adding your milk slowly while constantly whisking. Most recipes say to leave your bechamel sauce over low heat and to keep stirring until it boils. This takes forever and we've never had an issue with putting it on medium-high heat to speed up the process. Just make sure you do constantly stir, especially if you're working with higher heat, to avoid burning.
  • Once the bechamel sauce has a thicker consistency, take it off the heat. Add your 25 gram sof paresan cheese and one egg yolk. Make sure you're still stirring constantly. You don't want the heat from the sauce to cook the egg. You should have a creamy, thick sauce at the end.
  • Once your bechamel sauce and lentil mix are complete, you can start making your layers on top of the noodles. But first, drizzle some olive oil sauce over the noodles. Then, create one layer of the lentil mix followed by a layer of the bechamel sauce. Use a spatula to spread everything around and to keep the layers even. Finish by sprinkling some cinnamon and nut meg on top.
  • Bake at 180 degrees celsius (360 Fahrenheit) for about 40 minutes or until golden brown on top. You'll need to let this cool for more than 10 minutes for the pastitsio to keep its shape after cutting into it.

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