Friday, 1 May 2009


One of the biggest problems I have as a dad and a cook is figuring out what to put on the family menu each evening. My worst fear is eating the same things all of the time. I want my daughter to try new things as much as possible but of course with work and timing issues that makes it all that bit more difficult.

Most families have the same problem and lots opt for the easy option of the ready meal. I'm not going to mock that but I will always say that just 15 minutes each evening prepping food is usually all that is needed to knock up a cracking family meal. Learning a few simple skills and getting cooking has to be the answer.

The other issue is money and we have to stretch out pennies wisely. So I'm always on the lookout for new no fuss family meals that will do the job. A quick look over the waters to countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece will give you a multitude of recipes that match these criteria.

Pastitsio is like a Greek Moussaka with pasta, a delicious combination of meat, spice, egg and cheese that feeds the whole family for less than a fiver. I'm sure my Greek friends who read this will no doubt pick me up on how unauthentic it looks but that is of little importance to the common man. Serve it with a big green salad and enjoy the simplicity of easy, inexpensive and great family food.

Feeds 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 celery sticks, diced
2 carrots, diced
500g minced beef
400g chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp dried oregano
100ml beef or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
300g rigatoni pasta50g Parmesan cheese

For the cheese sauce
50g butter
50g plain flour
500ml milk
100g Cheddar Cheese grated
A little freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs beaten

1 – Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan and add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the minced beef and cook for 5 minutes until browned.
2 – Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, cinnamon and oregano and stir through for 1 minute. Then add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Taste for seasoning.
3 – Boil the pasta according to the instructions then drain and set aside.
4 – To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a pan and add the flour. Stir and cook for 1 minute then gradually beat in the milk until you have a thick white sauce. Stir in the cheese and nutmeg then taste for seasoning. Finally stir in the eggs.
5 - Grease a large ovenproof dish with the butter. Spread one-third of the pasta over the base of the dish and cover with half the meat sauce. Add another third of the pasta and then the rest of the meat sauce then cover with a final layer of pasta. Spoon over the cheese sauce.
6 – Sprinkle over the Parmesan cheese and bake on the middle shelf for 40 minutes until golden brown. Serve with a simple green salad.


Peter M said...

David, you were inspired to eat Greek, it's your family and you adjustments as you see fit...glad everyone liked it.

PS. Did you get the book?

David Hall said...

Peter, I've always loved Greek food for what it is anyway - simple, unpretentious and best of all, delicious!!!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Alreet the man?

I love Greek food and I love this dish.

Jodsgirl said...

Well I have some beef mince in the fridge and was going to do chilli for bank holidays easiness, but I think I might just have been inspired to try something new. Thank you.

Jacqueline Meldrum said...

I saw Peter make this and was intrigued with it then, as I am now. I could so easily make this veggie. I am glad you reminded me David. Your final dish looks great. Lots of nice crusty bits round the edge too, I wager. That's always Graham's favourite part of eating a baked dish topped with cheese.

Wendy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wendy said...

This is similar to a dish the Finns eat often at home and in work canteens. Simple and filling and really, really more-ish. Had forgotten about it and am now craving a bowl.

sarah said...

Pastitsio may be Greek but your English version is fantastic, afterall food is always evolving, and here it has your personality. Sounds perfect for an easy to prepare meal.

Mammy P said...

Hi David! I've just tried a vegetarian version of this as we're a houseful o' lettuce lickers... had to make a couple of adjustments but DANG this was one tasty dish! Thanks!

Mammy P said...

Hi David!

I've just tried a vegetarian version of your recipe (we're a houseful of lettuce lickers)... had to make a couple of adjustments (Quorn mince & fresh tomatoes with the stock not 'wet' enough so had to cheat and use bit of store bought sauce) but DANG, BROTHA -- this sure was tasty. Thanks for brightening up a dreary Wednesday!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Adjustmnts are always allowed. Your version sounds delicious David.

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

David, in all honesty, I likely would not have recognized this as a Pastitsio but for your description. In any case, I am sure you and your family enjoyed it, and it is a good budget meal, that's for sure. :-)

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