Skillet Pastichio (Greek Lasagna)

“Hi Marinike, this is Yiayia and Papou. We just called to say hi…”

Every single voicemail she ever left me started with that cute little greeting. It was usually followed by, “I was thinking of you” or “how’s your honey?”. Oh, how I’ll miss hearing that raspy, thick accent.

I had saved a few messages she left on my phone from the past couple of years and would stumble upon them from time to time when my mailbox was full (which she always managed to holler at me about). There was never any difference between most of them, I just liked to hear her smile through the phone I guess.

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She left a voicemail every time I didn’t answer my phone – my other grandparents do the same! I’ve been able to rack up so many because we’d talk on the phone a couple of times a week (sometimes more when she was in Arizona for the winter). We’d catch up and talk about life, and most days she’d ask me what I was cooking for dinner. She loved that I cooked and I inherited it from both sides of the family. Before hanging up, she’d always tell me, say hi to Brett and kiss the coocooriki for me.

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There’s one voicemail I know I saved on purpose. It’s from the day after our daughter was born in July 2015. She met her the day before at the hospital and she was beaming. In the voicemail, she told me they went to church and lit a candle for our koritziki (spelling?), which means girl in Greek. A testament to how much she loved our little girl, and was always interested in checking up on her.

The last one I have saved is from March. Her tone is pretty somber and her words a bit distracted. It’s completely different from the rest of them and I don’t like to listen to it as much. I can tell she’s not feeling well while she talks and that breaks my heart. I’m sad that she had to suffer at all before she died. While I hate listening to it, it helps me come to terms with her death and that she’s in a peaceful, beautiful place now.

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So, you’re probably wondering what pastichio has to do with voice mails or phone calls, and the truth is, not a lot. But there was one time last summer when Yiayia called after having lunch at Greek Islands. She said she wanted to stop by with some pastichio for our daughter, and when she walked through the door she was so excited to give her some. She took a lot of pride in Greek food and the fact that her great-grand daughter fancied it too.

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Yesterday, I put a spin on my Thea Joanne’s recipe and thought of my Yiayia through every stir, wondering if she was there with me. I have a feeling she was looking down saying, “I’m so proud of you, honey.”

If you end up making pastichio, don’t forget to tag your photos with #marinamakeseats.

Skillet Pastichio

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Bechamel Sauce

  • 4 cups of whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 5 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 2 egg yolks

Pastichio 

  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1/3 cup of chopped yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup of wine
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 3 oz of tomato paste (half of a 6 oz can)
  • 12 oz of rigatoni pasta
  • 6 oz of kefalotiri cheese, ground in a food processor (it’s very hard to grate this cheese)
  • 2 eggs, beaten

To make the bechamel sauce, heat a medium-large pot over medium heat. Bring milk, cornstarch, butter, salt and pepper to a boil, stirring frequently with a whisk. This will likely take around 20 minutes. Increase the heat if the milk is taking longer to boil. Once it starts boiling and thickens, turn off the heat and set aside to cool for 10-20 minutes. Beat the egg yolks and add them to the sauce.

While the bechamel is cooking, heat a 12 inch skillet (or oven-proof pan) over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, ground beef, onion, garlic, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cook the meat until browned. Add the wine and cook for a few minutes until half of it is absorbed. Next, add water and tomato paste. Stir to combine – the ground beef should be thick and creamy. Take off the heat and set aside, keeping everything in the skillet.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

While the meat is cooking, heat a large pot over high heat. When the water boils, add a handful of salt to the pot and then add the pasta. Drain five minutes prior to what’s instructed on the package. The pasta will continue cooking when you place it in the oven and doing this will prevent it from getting too soggy in the skillet. After draining the pasta, place it back in the pot and stir it with the kefalotiri cheese and eggs. Add the pasta to the ground beef mixture in the skillet.

Pour the bechamel sauce over the pasta and bake for 35-50 minutes until the top is browned.

 

 

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