This casserole is a traditional dish in Greek cuisine. And I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like it.
Lately, I have been all about comfort food. Maybe I could blame the grey skies, my stress levels rising to new highs and keeping me awake at night or maybe I am just experiencing some fall blues. Whatever the case might be, comfort food is always on my mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good salad. Layers of greens topped with colorful vegetables. Nuts or croutons add the necessary crunch factor while the dressing blends the flavors in a unique way. There is some magic in a well thought salad. Just not the one that I am craving for right now…
When I think about my meals I am all about bold and rich flavors. You know the ones I’m talking about. Those that butter and cream can provide. Or the blending flavors of a long and slow simmer of a ragout or soup. The depth and dimension that spices and herbs add. A meal to satisfy your hunger and feed your soul.
Casseroles are famous for their oven to tabletop convenience and for feeding a crowd. Or a family, take your pick! They are also known for being even tastier the next day as the flavors have had enough time to meld together. So, when you make this consider doubling the recipe to have enough leftovers for lunch the next day. Trust me you will not regret it…
Now, granted this is not your average weeknight meal. It does takes some time and effort to put together; so it’s best if you keep it for a low key day. Or maybe even the weekend. The good thing about it though is that by planning ahead you can prepare some of the components up to two days ahead.
So without further ado…
- 500 gr lean beef mince
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 500 ml crushed tomatoes
- 1 Tbsn tomato paste
- 1 stick cinnammon
- 1 pinch allspice
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 500 ml Water
- 80 gr Butter I always use cows milk butter
- 80 gr White Flour
- 1 lt Whole Milk
- 30 gr Gruyere Cheese Optional
- 1 pinch Nutmeg
- 1 egg
- 500 gr Penne Pasta I used spaghetti No2, but I could only find it in Greece
- In a wide swallow pot brown meat over medium-high heat for 5-7 min. Add onion and saute for 2-3 min. Add garlic, spices and stir. Add tomatoes and tomato paste and stir to combine. Next add water and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium low and simmer for 45-60 min. Check every 15 min to see if there is enough water and add as needed. Mince should have a rich sauce. Alternatively, you can cook the mince in a pressure cooker by setting it on high pressure and cooking it for 20 min. Let it release naturally for 10 min and then manually release steam and open the pot.
- In a wide swallow pot over medium heat melt butter. Once melted add the flour and stir until they form a paste. Pour the milk while stirring. For best results heat the milk before adding it to the butter-flour mixture. Be careful not to boil it. Stir until the sauce comes to a boil. Set the pot over a very low heat and cook for 25 -30 min stirring occasionally. Add cheese, salt & pepper and nutmeg and stir until incorporated.
- Cook pasta according to packaging instructions.
- In a casserole dish spread penne on a single layer. Add the mince and then the bechamel. Top the dish with an egg wash.Bake at 200C for 30 min or until brown and bubbly.Let the casserole sit for at least 10 min before cutting.
Rich and comforting this dish is going to make the cut to your current meal rotation.