18 February 2009

Taste of the Mediterranean-Pastitsio Venetsianiko

Mediterranean-Pastritsio Venetsianiko

Tony from Olive Juice highlights fresh and colourful Mediterranean flavours through his event Taste of the Mediterranean . It’s a food blogging event sponsored by igourmet.com and each month, a journey and celebration of each dish takes place, focusing on a popular dish from each of the regions of the Mediterranean.This month's event is being co-hosted by Peter at Kalofagas. So check it out!! Close your eyes and imagine yourself on a Greek island.

Tony says, "Imagine a culinary getaway with all your food-blogging friends to all the hot spots around the Mediterranean. It’ll be like island hopping, but better - country hopping!"

This month Tony is highlighting Greece. For anyone who frequent this blog you know I had to be there didn't you!!!!!

What are we making?


I opted for an Ionian classic version that if I do say so myself was just amazing!!!!

Pastitsio ( παστίτσιο) is a Greek layered baked pasta dish or Greek lasagna!! There are many variations throughout the regions of Greece and probably as many recipes as there are cooks. Do you use the traditional buccatoni, beef, lamb, veal, bechamel, mizithra or other cheese???? No matter what you choose, layer it up and bake till golden brown with some extra cheese sprinkled on top with a dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg to make it classically Greek!!! Pastitsio is one of those dishes that becomes even more flavourful each time it is reheated so make a big batch to last several days!!!!

Like Italy, Greece has recipes that are distinct from one region to another. Greece is known for its pies made with filo or other pastries. My good friend and blogging sister Ivy of Kopiaste , who hails from Athens, had both a sweet and savoury pie event. In the Peloponesse you could be offered makaronopita, or passa makarouna in Kos which is a kind of pastitsio made with homemade phyllo that is blanched first and then layered with a combination of ground pork and local fresh mizithra cheese ,and then the whole thing is drenched in meat broth and milk before being baked.

The Ionian Islands are located off the western coast of Greece, between Greece and Italy. Their cuisine is quite distinct. Corfu, Zakynthos, Kefalonia, Lefkada, Ithaki, and the smaller islands are water-rich and quite lush and green. With the exception of Lefkada, none of the Ionian islands ever fell under the 400 year Turkish rule. Instead, they were ruled by the Ottoman rival the Venetians, and to this day the Venetian influence can be felt in the food and the reminders of its history. What makes their cuisine unique is that they have dishes that have their roots clearly embedded in Italian culture such as pastitsada, bianco, bordetto (after the Italian brodetto). Wash all these flavourful dishes down with some nioki; what the rest of the country refers to as ouzo.
One of my favorite dishes from Corfu and Kythera is Pastitsio Venetsianiko which is a rich mixture of all sorts of meats, cheeses and a bechamel sauce layered with pasta . The similarity with pastitsio, that we are familiar, with ends here...... because it is also enclosed in a pastry crust. Apparently it was made in the households of the wealthy landowners.

So when I was looking for a new take on pastitsio for the Taste of the Mediterranean event I headed to the Ionian islands for some Pastitsio Venetsianiko!!!
I tried to find a recipe on-line for this dish but had no success. A HUGE thank you to my sis Ivy of Kopiaste who found a recipe from Elias Mamalakis and translated it for me from Greek to English. Thank you Ivy!!! It gave me some idea of how the dish would be traditionally prepared (I have included the recipe at the very bottom of this post if you would like to give it a try). In traditional Greek way he uses glasses and 1/2 glasses for measurement, but, if you use the same glass always you will always get it right!!

I combined this recipe that Ivy found from Elias with my own recipe for pastitsio as well as a recipe I found from Aglaia Kremezi for a pastitsio recipe from the island of Syros (where she uses puff pastry that is rolled very thinly). The recipe is from her book The Food of the Greek Islands. I think the end result, and my interpretation of the dish, is a delicious and winning combination!!!
Pastitsio Venetsianiko was typically baked in special forms so that the finished dish was "as high as a top hat". Today it is usually baked in a standard cake tin. The dish still has thick pasta layered with pieces of game or chicken, hard-boiled eggs, smoked ham, salami or mortadella, and cheese—whatever is available. The whole thing is cloaked in the classic pastry crust, pate brise. For my version I took a tip from noted cookbook author Aglaia Kremezi and used puff pastry that has been rolled out quite thinly.

This dish was fantastic if I do say so myself with its layers of pasta, Greek cheeses, lamb, hard boiled eggs and basil.

** Val's Take on Pastitsio Venetsianiko**

2 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 lb/500 g ground lamb
1- 2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup white wine
1 can tomatoes, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 lb/500 g macaroni (buccatoni)
2-1/2 cups/150 g of grated Kefalotiri or mizithra cheese
1 cup whole milk, or more if needed
freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
Fresh basil
2-4 hard boiled eggs
1-1/2 (17-1/4 oz packages) 3 sheets puff pasty when rolled out, thawed according to package instructions
Approximately 3 T milk
sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400F. Oil or butter a 13x9-inch baking dish.

Heat olive oil in saucepan saute onions over medium-high heat for 3 - 4 minutes. Add the ground lamb, stirring, until no linger pink, about 4 minutes. Add the white wine, garlic, bay leaf, parsley and crushed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool. Add 1-1/2 cups kefalotiri cheese, 1 cup milk and 2 eggs. Mix thoroughly. The mixture should be moist; if it is too dry, add a little more milk.

Cook the buccatoni/macaroni in boiling salted water until al dente, drain, and leave to cool.

Divide the puff pastry into 3 portions. Cover 1 piece with plastic wrap. Briefly knead the other 2 pieces tiogether, then roll out on a lightly floured surface. Line the dish with the puff pastry, trimming it to a 1-inch overhang; reserve the trimmings.

Sprinkle bottom of crust with some of the remaining 1 cup of cheese. Layer 1/2 the cooked buccatoni noodles in the bottom of the crust. Try and align them in rows as best you can. Layer 1/3 of the cooled meat sauce on top of noodles. Sprinkle with cheese. Next add a layer of hard boiled eggs and fresh basil leaves. Add the remainder of the noodles and top with the remaining 1/3 of the meat sauce. Top all with the remaining hard boiled eggs and basil leaves. Top all with the remaining cheese.

Roll the remaining puff pastry and stretch it to cover your pastitsio pie. Fold the overhanging bottom pastry over the top crust and pinch the ends together to seal, crimping them to make a neat cord around the edge of the pie, Flatten the cord with the tines of a fork all around the edge of the pie to prevent it from rising during baking or it will burn. Brush the pie generously with the tablespoons of milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake for 15 minutes, sprinkling the top of the pie 8 - 10 times with water. Bake for 10 minutes more, then reduce the oven temperature to 350F and bake for another 30 minutes more, until golden brown. If the top browns too quickly , cover loosely with aluminum foil. Turn off the oven but leave the pie in the oven for 10 minutes more.

Let the pie cool for 15 minutes and then serve.

Don't forget to submit your recipe for the BloggerAid cookbook where 100% of the proceeds target children and education through the World Food Programme called School Meals. We hope that our excitement is contagious!!! Send your submissions by the new deadline March 31st to bloggeraid AT gmail DOT com. Click here for everything you need to know to submit a recipe. Feel free to use our logo which highlights some of the recipes received so far!! Children are the Future!!!!

This is a traditional version as translated by Ivy.

**Venetsianiko Pastitsio**
translated from Elias Mamalakis site by Ivy.

800 grams of ground meat
250 grams of beef liver
ι½ kilo Makaroni pasta
Νο.21 medium onion
¾ glass of red wine
1 glass of tomato paste
olive oil
coarse sea salt
ground cloves
ground allspice
water, as much as needed
3 eggs
700 grams of grated kefalotyri


1kilo and 3 tablespoons flour
2 and ¼ cup of butter
½ cups of sugar
3 eggs
6 egg yolks
1/2 glass of brandy
1/2 glass of orange juice

Directions for the filling

Grate the onion and sauté. Add the ground meat and sauté as well. Finely chop the livers and add to the pan and sauté. Add wine and cover the pan for 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, mix and add coarse sea salt, pepper, cloves and allspice. Mix and add water until they are cooked and it has absorbed all the water. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Meantime boil pasta as usual, drain and place between two towels so that they totally dry.

Instructions for the dough

In a mixer add butter and add sugar and the 3 eggs and whisk. Add the 6 yolks. Set aside the egg whites for later one. Add brandy, orange juice and flour gradually, until the dough is ready..

Continue with the filling:

Add three more eggs in the egg whites and whisk together. Add them to the filling and mix. In a big bowl add some of the filling you have just prepared, some cheese, some pasta, and continue until you have used all the ingredients.

Constructing your pastitsio.

Roll out the dough and layer in a sauce pan (that's what it says!!) adding some dough on the sides of the pan. Add the mixture you have prepared and press with your fingers so that there is no gap. Add some granted cheese in between and press the mixture. Roll out a second piece of dough and cover the pan, joining together the two pieces.

Bake in a preheated over at 160ο C for about 3 hours.

Set aside to cool and reverse in a big platter and cut into pieces.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. Val, this will make a wonderful addition to the array of Pastitsios for Tony's ATOM focus on Greece.

    Elias Mamalakis is much admired for showcasing authentic and regional Greek dishes, like the Venetsianiko.

  2. well done, i love the top hat idea - looking through the layers of this pie is like seeing a tasteful rendition of op art in the kitchen!

  3. I made a low-fat lasagna today and I always wonder how you guys get that perfect square cut portion for the photo....mine always looks like a big blob of slob!!! I love pastitsios and this one looks yummee!!!

  4. I absolutely LOVE pastitsio! I have a great recipe from Canadian Living that I make every so often...Mmmmm...

  5. It looks like it's to die for. I'm salivating.

  6. Don't tell Peter, but yours looks way tastier. ;)

    Again, love the new profile pic. It's good to see that pretty face.

  7. Another great event that you are featuring. This is a dish I have to try making someday. Looks really good.

  8. I've always been fascinated by pastitsios.

  9. What a gorgeous pastitsio! i love this scrumptious Greek dish!



  10. Yum! That looks scrumptious! Great photo!!

  11. Oh Val your Pastitsio looks wonderful!!! Great event!

  12. Val, you did a great job. I am looking forward to trying your version of Venetsianiko Pastitsio.

  13. Absolutely gorgeous Val! I love how you've presented this with a little history as well! Well done!

  14. It looks great Val! I wish I could reach through the screen and taste it!!

  15. Looks delish - brings back so many memories of my childhood hols in Greece - yum!

  16. not only do i love the way this tastes, i'm absolutely thrilled by the way it looks. those tubes of pasta are so fun. :)

  17. I honestly cannot wait to try making this for my family. They would love it.

    Yours turned out just gorgeous. Perfection!

  18. WOW this looks fantastic! Val I'm gonna need an extra large plate tomorrow when you warm this up for me!

  19. I definitely want to try making this one day.

  20. Wow. Look at all of those layers. Very impressive. I like the glass measuring strategy.

  21. Oh. my. gosh!! Look at those gorgeous layers! Mmm, mmm, mmm, good! I can make out all the ingredients you list, too! I like the Ivy version, too, especially since her's has brandy in the dough! :-)

  22. Val that is quite an impressive stack of layers. Amazing.

  23. Val, that is one amazing pastitsio! I could definitely dig into that any time of day.

    It's funny, we are working on the same wavelength ... I just began writing a post for this event on my take on Aglaia Kremezi's pastitsio from Syros, which immediately spoke to me when I first bought that book quite a few years ago. You've taken some lovely aspects of these recipes and made a winning dish of your own Val!

  24. Under my long held theory that one can never tire of pasta, I'm loving all these pastistios. Your version looks delicious.

  25. Can't beat a good patstitsio! One of my all-time favourite Mediterranean comfort foods. Yours looks just terrific!

  26. what a great looking pasta dish... :)

  27. I just saw this on the menu yesterday at a Greek restaurant! Yours looks amazing!

  28. I like the sound of the Venetsianiko pastitsio. It looks great!

  29. Beautiful, Val! I've actually never had this type of pastitsio before. I'm hoping I can fit in pastitsio before the end of the month. I can't get to Greektown so I may need to use romano cheese. Shh please don't tell on me. :)

  30. Amazing Val! This would just have to be wonderful!

  31. Oh I love it!! And I love how the noodles are all aligned like a hineycomb. Can I come for dinner??

  32. This sounds wonderful, Valli...you are in your element when cooking the food of your beloved Greek isles! :-) Your passion for creating wonderful treats from your kitchen always shines through in your posts, and most especially in your posts about Greek cuisine. :-)


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