Baked Pasta

By: Eleni Saltas

The thought of assembling layers of creamy pasta, juicy minced meat, and a thick béchamel sauce used to intimidate me. But, after learning from my yiayia and trying different types of pastitsios from Athens to San Fransisco, that intimidation has been put to rest.

Pastitsio chefs all have their preferences. They may use long or short noodles, thick or thin pastas and vary the amount of béchamel sauce topping. My recipe comes with a lighter béchamel sauce enriched with two different types of cheese that are also used throughout the dish. Ricotta cheese is added to cooked pasta, plus cheese is stirred in both the meat and béchamel sauce. The result offers a perfect bite every time.

Prep Time:


Total Time:



8-10 (9×13 pan) 

Good For:



For the meat sauce

  • 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon, or more to taste
  • 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped 
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 (8-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1⁄4 cup grated cheese (such as Kefalotyri, Romano, or Parmesan cheese)
    For the pasta
  • 1 pound pasta of your choice (I prefer ziti, penne, misko no 2)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄2 cup ricotta cheese
  • Bread crumbs
    For the bechemal sauce
  • 3⁄4 cups butter
  • 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups warm milk
  • 1⁄4 cup grated cheese (such as Kefalotyri, Romano, or Parmesan cheese)
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Step by Step Instructions

For the Meat Sauce

In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté.
Add the ground beef and break it up into small chunks with a wooden spoon. Season well with oregano, salt, pepper and cinnamon, and brown the beef. Mix in the parsley.
Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes and simmer until liquid is mostly absorbed, about 20 minutes. Taste and add more seasoning to your preference. Don’t be afraid to season! Stir in grated cheese and set aside.

For the Pasta

Boil a pot of water and add a teaspoon of salt and extra virgin olive oil. Cook the pasta about 1-2 minutes less than the package instructions (or they will get mushy when being cooked in the oven).

Drain the pasta and rinse well. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in ricotta cheese.

For the Bechamel Sauce

Melt butter into a saucepan over medium heat.
As soon as it melts, add the
flour and whisk well until a white paste forms, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk in batches to avoid lumps, whisking continuously. The mixture will be thick at first, so be patient and continue to whisk.
Once the sauce is thick and creamy, remove from heat. Stir in grated cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the two eggs, whisking quickly so the eggs don’t scramble. Set sauce aside until needed.

Step 4

Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Sprinkle a 9” x 13” baking pan with bread crumbs.
Spread half of the pasta, or enough to evenly cover the pan, and reserve the rest. Pour the meat mixture over the pasta. Top with the remaining pasta. Pour the béchamel sauce over the top of the pasta and smooth out with a spatula. Sprinkle with extra grated cheese and a dash of nutmeg.
Bake for about 50 minutes, until top is golden brown. Remove from heat and let stand for at least 20 minutes before serving.