Pasta for Pastitsio
Bechamel Sauce
  1. Moussaka or Pastitsio: Heat a big pan. Pour in some oil when the pan is hot. When the oil is hot, brown chopped onion and minced garlic, a good amount either way. Add half pound of ground meat (or raw lentils in half the amount), and stir til meat is brown or lentils are fully incorporated with the onions. Add dried oregano, a good hit of salt, pepper, a can of crushed tomatoes, a healthy spoon of tomato paste, and about a quarter cup of broth. Let simmer about 20 minutes. Season with allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and cook one more minute, then check to see if it needs more salt an pepper. Cool to room temp; you can make this a day ahead if you like. When the mix is at room temp, add in one beaten egg.
  2. Béchamel : Whisk 2 tablespoons of whole milk with 1 egg yolk. Melt butter and whisk in flour until smooth and bubbly. Gradually whisk the rest of the milk (one cup less 2 tablespoons), 1/4 teaspoon of salt, a pinch each of nutmeg and allspice; simmer. Lower heat, and simmer while whisking until the sauce is nice and thick, 5-8 minutes. Carefully whisk 2 T of the sauce into milk/egg yolk mixture, then add that and the grated cheese back to the pan, whisking the whole time. Whisk over low heat for approximately 2 minutes; cheese should be all or mostly melted. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Can be prepared one day ahead; press plastic wrap to surface of warm sauce, then refrigerate when cool.
  3. Pastitsio: Boil pasta in salted water until al dente. May be prepared one day ahead. Keep pasta covered and toss with a little oil before you store it.
  4. Eggplant for moussake: Peel and slice eggplant into half-inch crosswise slices. Sprinkle with salt. Line a cookie sheet with towels (paper or otherwise), lay the slices on top, and then weight them down with something heavy and flat, maybe a platter or big casserole. Let them sit like that for 20 minutes. Blot slices with paper towels, then toss in flour. Heat pan, add oil, and add eggplant to hot oil, browning on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
  5. To assemble: Heat oven to 325º. Place half eggplant or pasta, sprinkle with 1/3 of the grated cheese. Add all filling. Top with the rest of the eggplant or pasta and 1/3 more of the cheese. Pour on the bechamel, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 30 minutes, then increase heat to 400º and bake 15 minutes longer, for a golden brown top. Moussaka should rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Can be made one day ahead and reheated.

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