Italian Style Pastitsio

A Greek dish with Italian flavors
2 hours 30 minutes Total Time
1 hour to prep
1 hour 10 minutes to cook
20 minutes to cool
6 servings

Pastitsio is sometimes described as a Greek-style lasagna, so in a way I'm calling this an Italian style (Greek-style) lasagna which is weird. It is quite different from lasagna even though it contains some of the same ingredients. It has 3 distinct layers and the end result is very delicious and filling. The original Pastitsio recipe from Cook's Illustrated was also very delicious, but my picky eater did not love the Greek flavors of this dish I decided to try it with the Italian flavors that he prefers, and it turned out really well. 

I doubled the meat sauce to make the dish have a better ratio of protein, and I am also using ground turkey because I do that a lot. This would work great with a lean beef as well. 

This is not difficult to make, but a lot time is used up simmering the sauce, baking the dish and cooling it, so this is something I save for the weekends. I tend to make this when I have purchased some whole milk for a baking project, and I want to use up the remaining milk. The meat sauce can be made the day before which i

You can use any Italian cheeses that you like in this. The cheese does not play a large role and just adds a little body to the sauce, which cooks up into a firm layer. This is a somewhat time-consuming recipe so I almost always make the sauce the day before or in the morning. Once that is done, assembling the final dish is fairly simple. 


Ingredients with an * are listed more than once.


  • Gather and prep ingredients. The meat sauce can be made a day ahead if desired.
    Step 0
  • Mix water, salt and baking soda in a small bowl.
    Step 1
  • Put ground turkey in medium bowl and sprinkle water mixture over the turkey. Toss with a fork to combine mixture. Set aside
    Step 2
  • Heat oil and saute onion over medium heat for a few minutes until onion is softened.
    Step 3
  • Add garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, black pepper, and optional mushroom powder. Sauté until fragrant, a minute or two.
    Step 4
  • Add vermouth or water and stir to combine. Continue cooking until mixture is thickened.
    Step 5
  • Add ground meat mixture, tomato paste and water to pan. Stir to combine. Continue to cook and stir until meat is no longer pink and broken up, about 4 or 5 minutes.
    Step 6
  • Bring to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes, stirring on occasion. Set aside. You can store the sauce in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for a day or two.
    Step 7
  • Preheat the oven to 375. Put oven rack in middle of oven. Spray a glass baking dish with vegetable spray. The dish should be about 8"x8", but other measurements will work if the surface area is similar. I am using a 9"x7" pan. It should be rectangular or the layers will not be neat. Place the glass baking dish on top of a jelly roll pan to catch any overflow while baking.
    Step 8
  • Melt butter in a large saucepan.
    Step 9
  • Add flour, garlic, salt, and pepper to the butter and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
    Step 10
  • Add the milk slowly, whisking while you are pouring it in. Bring to boil.
    Step 11
  • Add the pasta. Stir frequently so the pasta does not stick together. Bring the sauce back to a simmer.
    Step 12
  • Remove the pot from the heat. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Stir a few times to keep pasta separated.
    Step 13
  • Using a spider skimmer, move the pasta to the baking dish, leaving the sauce in the pot. The pasta will not be fully cooked. Add cheese to the pasta and mix.
    Step 14
  • If using ziti, try to arrange the pasta in rows. It does not have to be perfect, but looks nice when they are lined up. If using another type of pasta don't worry about the arrangement and just spread in an even layer.
    Step 15
  • Add rest of the cheese to the sauce and whisk, then add the egg and whisk until smooth.
    Step 16
  • Spread the meat sauce over the pasta in an even layer.
    Step 17
  • Pour the white sauce over the meat sauce carefully, and spread into even layer. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top if desired.
    Step 18
  • Place dish and pan underneath in the oven. Bake until top is spotty brown. This will take 40-50 minutes.
    Step 19
  • Remove from oven and let cool 20 minutes.
    Step 20
  • Serve. Leftovers can be stored in refrigerator for a few days. The leftovers reheat a bit unevenly in the microwave because each layer is different, but is should still taste good.
    Step 21

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