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My Best Recipe

Pastitsio, a Beef Casserole Dish From Greece

April 23, 1987

"This recipe was given to me by my father-in-law, who came to America from Greece in 1920," Donna J. Athens writes. "He has shared many of his delicious Greek recipes with us but this one is particularly special."

PASTITSIO

1 pound macaroni

Boiling salted water

3 or 4 chicken bouillon cubes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon crushed dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, optional

1/4 teaspoon crushed dried marjoram

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Dash ground cloves

2 tablespoons butter

2 large onions, chopped

1 pound lean ground beef

1 bay leaf

3/4 cup white wine

Bread crumbs

Tomato Sauce

2 egg whites, optional

Cream Sauce

Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Cook macaroni in boiling salted water with bouillon cubes and olive oil 8 minutes. Rinse in cold water, then drain completely. Set aside.

Combine black pepper, salt, thyme, allspice, cardamom, marjoram, cinnamon and cloves in small bowl. Melt butter in large skillet. Saute onions until lightly golden. Add beef and bay leaf. Brown meat, stirring constantly. Remove bay leaf. Stir in spice mixture, then wine.

Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove lid. Cook and stir until liquid evaporates. Remove from heat. Spoon off grease drippings. Cover meat and set aside.

Sprinkle small amount of bread crumbs on bottom of 13x9-inch buttered glass baking dish and 9-inch square glass baking dish. Divide macaroni between casseroles. Spread Tomato Sauce on top. Spread with meat sauce (if desired, fold 2 beaten egg whites into meat sauce before adding to casserole).

Carefully and slowly pour in Cream Sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees 30 minutes for small dish and as long as 50 minutes for larger dish. Allow to stand at least 30 minutes before serving. Slice into squares. Makes about 12 servings.

Note: Recipe is especially good if prepared day ahead and then reheated, covered with foil, at 350 degrees.

Tomato Sauce

2 (16-ounce) cans unpeeled whole tomatoes

6 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Place tomatoes in large skillet and crush with wooden spoon. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Add butter and continue simmering another 30 minutes. Stir occasionally, scraping sides of skillet. Add sugar, salt and pepper and simmer additional 30 to 60 minutes or until thickened.

Cream Sauce

1 quart milk

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Dash ground turmeric

Dash ground nutmeg

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup brandy or Madeira

Scald milk in saucepan. Melt butter in another saucepan. Blend in flour and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add hot milk. Cook over low heat 3 to 4 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Do not boil. Add salt, pepper, turmeric and nutmeg.

Beat egg yolks slightly with brandy. Add a little hot cream sauce to yolk mixture, then add egg mixture to cream sauce all at once. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not boil.

--DONNA J. ATHENS

Ventura

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