Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna)

Here’s A Tasty Pastitsio Recipe Worth the Time and Effort!

For a beautiful, layered creation that is sure to turn heads, Pastitsio – sometimes also called Greek Lasagna – is a classic dish that is visually quite stunning.

Made with layers of pasta, meat sauce, and Bechamel sauce placed perfectly atop one another, this dish comes with quite the back story in Greek cuisine.

Interestingly, different versions of pastitsio are eaten in a number of countries around the Mediterranean like Cyprus, Malta, and Albania.

piece of greek lasagna on plate with parsley around and on top with green cloth behind.
This Pastitsio is ready to be enjoyed!

Pastitsio is related to – but different from – the Italian pasticcio which are a variety of savory pies, some with crust. This makes sense considering early Greek Pastitsio was apparently wrapped in filo pastry.

The current, most-widely known version of Greek Pastitsio is credited to Nikolaos Tselementes.

This Greek-born chef, who trained in France, brought his knowledge back with him. He’s credited with fundamentally changing this dish – and in many other ways, Greek cooking – with the addition of Bechamel sauce (the creamy top later) to the pastitsio.

Ingredients

In order to make this pastitsio recipe, you’ll need to gather up the ingredients for each layer. We’ve broken them down into sections so it’s easier!

Pasta Layer Ingredients

ingredients for greek lasagna like pasta feta cheese and egg whites in bowls on counter top with labels.
The ingredients you’ll need for the pasta layer.

Here is what you’ll need for the pasta layer:

  • Bucatini – Ideally you use Greek bucatini, but if you can’t find it you can also use Italian bucatini (the noodles are slightly smaller), penne pasta or ziti.
  • Feta cheese – To mix with the pasta after cooking.
  • Egg whites  – You’ll also need some egg yolks so make sure to save them.

Bechamel Sauce Ingredients

ingredients for creamy bechamel sauce on counter in bowls with labels.
The ingredients you’ll need for the Bechamel layer.

Here is what you’ll need for the bechamel sauce:

  • Butter – You’ll melt the butter in a saucepan.
  • Flour – Regular all-purpose flour works well.
  • Milk – You can use whole milk or 2% milk, it’s up to you.
  • Egg yolks – You’ll need 2 egg yolks.
  • Nutmeg – To add some additional flavor.
  • Salt – For flavor; add more or less to taste (especially if the feta and/or the bouillon cubes are quite salty).
  • Parmesan cheese – Instead of parmesan cheese, you can also use Greek Kefalotyri cheese if you can find it.

Meat Sauce Ingredients

ingredients needed for meat sauce on counter in bowls on labels.
The ingredients needed for the meat sauce layer!
  • Olive oil – Use olive oil for the classic Mediterranean flavor, but if you don’t have any avocado oil or canola oil also work well.
  • Red onions – Instead of red onions, you can also use yellow onions if you wish.
  • Garlic cloves – You’ll need 3 garlic cloves for flavor.
  • Red wine – To make the sauce. We’d opt for a dry red wine but it’s up to you.
  • Ground beef – Instead of ground beef, you can also use a mix of ground beef and ground pork.
  • Canned tomatoes – Ideally use crushed tomatoes but diced tomatoes also work since the sauce will simmer for a while.
  • Granulated sugar – To bring out the tomato flavor. We wouldn’t recommend skipping the sugar completely.
  • Bay leaves – For added flavor; remember to remove the bay leaves once the sauce is done cooking.
  • Cinnamon – For flavor.
  • Beef bullion cubes – Instead of beef, you could also use chicken bouillon cubes if you don’t have any beef cubes or skip these completely – but they do add nice additional flavor.
  • Salt – For flavor.
  • Black pepper – For flavor.
  • Fresh parsley – You’ll need 1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley.

Topping

  • Parmesan cheese – Instead of grated parmesan cheese, you can also use Greek Kefalotyri cheese if you can find it.

Recipe Tips/Substitutions

Before you make this Greek pastitsio, you should read through these recipe tips so that you know what to expect:

  • You’ll need quite a few ingredients for this recipe. We’d recommend setting them out before starting to cook to make it less overwhelming.
  • The original recipe is made with Greek bucatini (called pastitsio). This tubular pasta gives the dish its signature look. However, if you can’t find them you can use Italian bucatini (widely available at grocery stores), penne pasta or ziti. For this recipe, we used Italian bucatini.
  • The original Greek lasagna is made with Kefalotyri cheese (Greek sheep/goat cheese). However, because Kefalotyri cheese is not available in every country this recipe uses Parmesan cheese as a substitute.
  • If the feta, parmesan cheese, or bouillon cubes you are using are very salty, you might want to reduce the amount of salt you add to the sauce.
  • Make sure to not overcook the pasta when boiling it since the dish will be baked for 30-40 minutes afterwards and you don’t want the pasta to end up too soft.

How to Make Pastitsio – Step by Step Instructions

In this section, you’ll find out how to make this Greek pasta dish with step-by-step process photos of each part of the pastitsio.

Of course, you can also find the detailed recipe card located at the bottom of this post!

lots of different ingredients for greek lasagna on counter top in bowls.
All the ingredients needed for Greek lasagna!

First, get all the ingredients that you’ll need ready – or at least the spices. That will make it easier (and quicker) during cooking.

diced onions frying in oil in silver pot with grey counter top around.
Sauté the onions and garlic.

We’ll start with making the meat sauce. For that, heat the olive oil in a large pot or pan with high sides.

Add the onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes until soft, then add the garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.

ground beef cooked in silver pot with grey counter around.
Cook the ground beef.

Next, add the ground beef and cook until it turns brown and is no longer red. Break apart the beef as you stir. Then add the red wine and cook until the wine has evaporated.

silver pot seen from top down filled with red canned tomatoes spices and cooked beef.
Add the canned tomatoes and spices.

Now add the canned tomatoes, granulated sugar, bay leaves, cinnamon, crumbled up bullion cubes, salt and black pepper. Stir well, then bring to a simmer.

red meat sauce with green parsley chopped on top in silver pot.
You should have a delicious thick tomato-based sauce.

Simmer on low heat for around one hour or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the ground beef is fully cooked. Stir occasionally.

When it’s done, stir in the fresh parsley. Then remove the pot from the stove and let the sauce cool down. Also, remember to remove the bay leaves.

silver pot with melted butter inside and grey and white counter around.
Melt the butter.

Next, we’ll make the bechamel sauce. For this, melt the butter in a large saucepan on medium heat.

thick creamy sauce in silver pot being stirred with metal whisk.
Stir in the flour.

Once the butter is melted, add the flour and stir it in for around 2 minutes using a whisk.

Now slowly add the milk in small increments, whisking the whole time so that you don’t get any lumps.

creamy sauce in pot with silver whisk stirring.
You should end up with a thick white sauce.

Bring the mixture to a low boil while stirring constantly so that the bottom doesn’t burn.

Once it starts to bubble, keep whisking until the bechamel sauce has thickened. Then turn off the heat and remove the saucepan from the stove.

Now, add the salt, nutmeg and grated parmesan cheese. Allow the sauce to cool for a couple of minutes, then also stir in the egg yolks. Set the sauce aside until later.

cooked long noodles in silver pot with granite counter top around.
Cook the pasta.

Next, we’ll cook the pasta. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to packaging instructions until al dente. It’s important to not overcook it, otherwise the pasta might end up too soft after baking.

cooked long pasta arranged in rectangle baking dish on counter top.
Add the pasta to a baking dish.

While the pasta is boiling, lightly brush a baking dish with olive oil. When the pasta is done, drain it well and add it to the baking dish. Spread the pasta out evenly and let it cool for a couple of minutes.

While you wait, whisk the egg whites in a small bowl with a fork. Then pour the egg whites on top of the pasta and add the crumbled feta. Mix well.

The pasta will kind of naturally settle in the pan and run in one direction. That said, you can help to align the pasta lengthwise in the pan a bit so that you get that classic cross-cut circle look when you slice it.

At this time also preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

meat sauce covering layered pasta in rectangle baking dish on counter top seen from top down.
Add the meat sauce to the baking dish.

Finally, we’ll assemble the pastitsio. Add the meat sauce on top of the pasta in the baking dish and spread it out evenly with a spatula.

creamy Béchamel sauce in rectangle pan on grey counter top.
Add the bechamel sauce on top of the meat sauce.

Next, pour over the bechamel sauce and spread it out evenly as well. Then sprinkle the grated cheese on top.

greek lasagna with chopped parsley on top seen from above with green cloth beside.
The top of the pastitsio should be golden brown.

Bake the pastitsio on the middle rack of your oven for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let it sit for 20 minutes before slicing.

fork lifting pieces of beef and noodles from slice of greek lasagna on plate.
Look at this delicious Greek pasta dish!

Enjoy!

Storage Tips

If you have leftovers from this Greek lasagna, you can store them in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Pastitsio firms up a bit when cooled so it’s actually easier to cut later into pieces for reheating in the microwave.

Otherwise, you could keep it in the baking dish and warm the entire thing back in the oven.

FAQ

Here are a few answers to questions about Pastitsio:

What is pastitsio?

Pastitsio is the name for “Greek Lasagna”. This is a layered dish made with Bucatini noodles, a tomato-based meat sauce, and a creamy Bechamel sauce layer. Greek goat or sheep cheese – Kefalotyri – is sprinkled on top.

How to make pastitsio?

To make pastitsio, prepare the meat sauce by cooking the onions, minced meat, red wine, tomatoes, and spices together. Then, create the Bechamel sauce with milk, flour, butter and cheese. Cook the Bucatini pasta and add the egg whites and feta. Now, layer the pasta on the bottom in the same direction. Layer on the meat sauce, then the Bechamel sauce. Sprinkle with more cheese, then cook until golden brown on top.

What to serve with pastitsio?

Since pastitsio can be heavy, you can serve it with a nice Greek salad.

Related Recipes

If you liked this Greek recipe, check out these other awesome Greek dishes that you can make right at home!

piece of greek lasagna on plate with noodles on bottom and parsley leaves on top.

Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna)

Pastitsio is a tasty Greek pasta dish in a delicious meat sauce. With a top layer of creamy bechamel sauce, it's layer upon layer of flavor goodness.
5 from 2 votes
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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

Meat Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 red onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.75 pounds ground beef, or mixed beef and pork
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 28 ounces canned tomatoes, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 beef or chicken bouillon cubes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Bechamel Sauce

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Pasta

  • 14 ounces Greek bucatini, for alternatives see notes
  • 5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 egg whites

Topping

  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions

Make The Meat Sauce

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot or pan with high sides. Add the onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes until soft, then add the garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
    2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 red onions, 3 garlic cloves
  • Add the ground beef and cook until it turns brown and is no longer red. Break apart the beef as you stir. Then add the red wine and cook until the wine has evaporated.
    1.75 pounds ground beef, 1/2 cup red wine
  • Now add the canned tomatoes, granulated sugar, bay leaves, cinnamon, crumbled up bullion cubes, salt and black pepper. Stir well, then bring to a simmer. Simmer on low heat for around one hour or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the ground beef is fully cooked. Stir occasionally.
    28 ounces canned tomatoes, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 beef or chicken bouillon cubes, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • When it's done, stir in the fresh parsley. Then remove the pot from the stove and let the sauce cool down. Also, remember to remove the bay leaves.
    1/2 cup fresh parsley

Make The Bechamel Sauce

  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan on medium heat. Once it's melted, add the flour and stir it in for around 2 minutes using a whisk. Now slowly add the milk in small increments, whisking the whole time so that you don't get any lumps.
    1/2 cup butter, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 4 cups milk
  • Bring the mixture to a low boil while stirring constantly so that the bottom doesn't burn. Once it starts to bubble, keep whisking until the bechamel sauce has thickened. Then turn off the heat and remove the saucepan from the stove.
  • Now, add the salt, nutmeg and grated parmesan cheese. Allow the sauce to cool for a couple of minutes, then also stir in the egg yolks. Set the sauce aside until later.
    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup parmesan cheese, 2 egg yolks

Cook The Pasta

  • Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to packaging instructions until al dente (it's important to not overcook it!). Meanwhile, lightly brush a baking dish with olive oil. When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the baking dish. Spread the pasta out evenly and let it cool for a couple of minutes.
    14 ounces Greek bucatini
  • While you wait, whisk the egg whites in a small bowl with a fork. Then pour the egg whites on top of the pasta and add the crumbled feta. Mix well. The pasta will kind of naturally settle in the pan and run in one direction. That said, you can help to align the pasta lengthwise in the pan a bit so that you get that classic cross-cut circle look when you slice it.
    3 egg whites, 5 ounces feta cheese

Assemble

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Add the meat sauce on top of the pasta in the baking dish and spread it out evenly with a spatula.
  • Pour over the bechamel sauce and spread it out evenly as well. Then sprinkle the grated cheese on top.
    1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • Bake the Pastitsio on the middle rack of your oven for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let it sit for 20 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Notes

  • The original recipe is made with greek bucatini (pastitsio). However if you can’t find them you can use regular Italian bucatini, penne pasta or ziti. For this recipe I used Italian bucatini.
  • The original Greek lasagna is made with Kefalotyri cheese. However, because Kefalotyri cheese is not always available this recipe uses Parmesan cheese. 

Nutrition

Calories: 893kcal | Carbohydrates: 66g | Protein: 42g | Fat: 50g | Saturated Fat: 24g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 18g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 193mg | Sodium: 1469mg | Potassium: 1012mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 1372IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 552mg | Iron: 5mg

This nutritional information has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator. It should only be seen as a rough calculation and not a replacement for professional dietary advice.

Course Dinner
Cuisine Greek
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This recipe was contributed by
Stefani Stefovska
Born and raised in Macedonia, Stefani started cooking from a very young age. Her family passed down their love for food and cooking together with many traditional Balkan and Greek recipes.

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