Vegetarian pastichio

In my last post, I mentioned the 40-day fasting period between Lent Monday and Orthodox Easter. Thinking of new meals to try during this time, I came up with a vegetarian version of Pastichio that really hit the spot on a cold winter’s day!

As you may know, Pastichio (that is essentially an Italian meal adopted by the Greeks yonks ago) is traditionally made with minced meat. This version is just as yummy, cheesy and creamy – a wonderful alternative. Without further ado, let’s start with the recipe!

INGREDIENTS FOR THE SAUCE

3 medium courgettes (zucchinis)

2 medium carrots

1 beef tomato (cut in half and grated – leave the skin out)

A splash of tomato puree (not much – just enough to give the sauce a little colour)

1 red onion (chopped)

1 garlic clove (chopped)

1 cinnamon stick (or a sprinkle of powder)

1 bay leaf

4 ‘bahari’ (aka ‘allspice berries’ – optional)

1/3 teaspoon cumin powder (optional)

a sprinkle of ginger powder (optional)

6-8 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (whatever amount you use for sauces)

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BECHAMEL SAUCE

1lt of full fat milk

8-9 level tablespoons of all purpose flour

4 level tablespoons of butter (just scoop with the tablespoon – doesn’t have to be exact)

salt, pepper, generous sprinkle of nutmeg

1 egg

OTHER

500 gr – i.e. 1 pack of pasta number 2 (long tubes with holes in them)

1-2 ‘fryganies’ (toasted slices of bread – or use ready dry breadcrumbs)

a little butter

Grated kefalotyri cheese or parmesan for serving

PREPARATION

Saute the onion and the garlic in the oil in a big pot in medium heat. Keep stirring. When the onion gets a little transparent, add the carrot and the courgette. Give it a good stir and add grated tomato and the passata. Stir again and add all the spices you’re using. Add salt and black pepper.

Add enough hot water from the kettle so the ingredients boil comfortably. Don’t immerse them. Less is better as the courgette will release juice too. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes and stir occasionally.

Uncover, taste and add seasoning as needed.

Leave uncovered and turn up heat until the juices diminish (a little left is okay). Stir occasionally.

When done, remove the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and the bahari (allspice berries) and cover, set aside.

Boil the pasta in salted water. Stir occasionally. Check directions in the pack for boiling time. It’ll be about 5-8 minutes. Drain well and add the pasta to the pot with the sauce. Mix well.

While the pasta boils, start making the bechamel sauce. Place the milk in a pot and turn the heat on high for a bit. Add the butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg. Turn the heat to medium and start putting in the flour (don’t put it in when the milk is cold!) one tablespoon at a time, while stirring with the other hand using an egg whisker. Just stir, don’t whisk. Stop adding flour when the mixture becomes thick. It’ll take about 8-9 tablespoons of flour. Taste it and add seasoning or nutmeg at this point as needed.

(Note: Never leave the bechamel sauce unattended. Do not let the milk boil.)

Remove from heat and add 1 whole egg. Use the egg whisker to mix well.

Place the pasta mixture in a large, preferably square, baking tin or pyrex dish. Pour the bechamel sauce all over the top. Use a spoon to spread evenly and ensure the pasta is covered.

Take 1-2 fryganies and break them in your hands in small bits and into a powder. Sprinkle the contents all over the top to form a crust. If using ready dry breadcrumbs, use 1-2 tablespoons and break into a powder. Doesn’t have to cover the top all over. Just sprinkle here and there evenly.

Take with the tip of a teaspoon some butter 4-5 times and put the bits all over the top. This adds color to the crust.

Last, put your hands under the cold tap. Shake your hands over the baking tin for waterdrops to go everywhere. Do this 3-4 times. The water will stop the mixture from rising.

Preheat the oven at 195 degrees C.

The grill-and-air setting is best. Place tin in the second tray from the bottom.

Bake for 30 minutes or until it gets golden in colour. Take the Pastichio out of the oven and let sit for a bit before serving. If you hurry, the pieces will not come out solid.

To be honest, by that point the fragrance tickles my nostrils and I can’t wait too long, but do try to wait for 5-10 minutes, if you can 🙂

Sprinkle every piece you serve with grated cheese. Kefalotyri is great, if you have it, or another salty hard cheese, like parmesan, will do. A green salad will go well with this meal. Kali orexi!

NOTE: If adding more salt or fat content to your meal is not a problem, then I highly recommend you add grated kefalotyri or parmesan when you mix the pasta with the sauce. It takes the taste to new heights!

HOT TIP: This recipe will make 8 large pieces. You can freeze some of them in aluminium foil. Take them out on an evening to defreeze overnight in the fridge to have the next day. The way I heat up Pastichio these days is a healthy alternative to the nasty radiation of the microwave oven. Just put the pieces in a large pot on the stove with about half a cup of hot water. Cover and turn on high heat. When it starts to boil, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes for the meal to warm up well inside. It helps to cut big pieces of Pastichio into two and pull them apart as well. To remove extra water, uncover and turn up the heat. I use the same method these days to warm up anything; all my soups and stews, and even leftover meat roast or Briam.

Hungry for more? Browse through all my recipes here: https://effrosinimoss.wordpress.com/category/greek-recipes-2/

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