Vegetarian Pastitsio

October 18, 2021
1 Ratings
Photo by Joe Baur
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours
  • makes One 13x9-inch casserole
Author Notes

Joe was wildly incompetent in the kitchen until his wife, Melanie, showed him the basics. Not wanting to be the stereotypical useless husband on a CBS sitcom, he became her sous chef when making their weeknight burritos and the occasional Greek dish. Seeing Melanie’s culinary connection to her heritage inspired Joe to start connecting with his Jewish heritage through food. He quickly became a competent home cook, embracing and combining their respective culinary histories and updating recipes to their newfound vegetarian-ish lifestyle.

This dish does take some time, so plan it for a weekend or holiday dinner. It’s otherwise an easy dish to make and doesn’t require a ton of cooking experience. Greek and Turkish specialty stores will have the best, thickest bucatini noodles. But really, any box of bucatini at your local grocery store will do. You can even use penne in a pinch. A word to the wise: Let the pastitsio cool off after taking it out of the oven. It needs to settle. Otherwise, you’re going to turn your meal into a culinary Jackson Pollock. Leftovers heat up nicely, and the layers keep their shape quite well (for that inevitable Instagram humble brag).
Joe Baur

What You'll Need
  • Lentils & Noodles
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup brown or green lentils
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups homemade or store-bought vegetable stock
  • 500 milliliters tomato sauce
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 large fresh basil sprig, chopped, or 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 300 grams bucatini
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 teaspoon Parmesan, grated
  • Greek-Style Béchamel Sauce & Assembly
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plant-based or regular milk
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 teaspoons Parmesan, grated
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Lentils & Noodles
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the celery, carrots, and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes more, until softened and warmed through. Stir in the lentils and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, until the lentils are softened; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the stock, tomato sauce, bay leaves, basil, oregano, and cinnamon. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover the pan. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until most of the liquid has been reduced. Optional: Add another 1½ teaspoons cinnamon at the end and mix. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large pot of generously salted water, cook the bucatini according to the package directions. Drain and arrange in the bottom of a lightly greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Let cool.
  5. In a small bowl, mix the egg white and Parmesan. Coat the noodles with the egg mixture.
  1. Greek-Style Béchamel Sauce & Assembly
  2. Heat the oven to 350°F. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Slowly add the flour while whisking constantly to form a paste.
  3. Slowly pour in the milk while constantly whisking. Most recipes say to leave the béchamel sauce over low heat and to keep stirring until it boils. This takes forever and we've never had an issue with cooking over medium-high heat with nondairy milk to speed up the process. Just make sure you stir constantly, especially if you're working over higher heat, to avoid burning. This should take 10 to 15 minutes total. If you opt to use dairy milk, you’ll have to use a lower heat to avoid curdling.
  4. Once the béchamel sauce has a thicker consistency, remove from the heat. Add the egg yolk and Parmesan, stirring constantly; you don't want the heat from the sauce to cook the egg. You should have a creamy, thick sauce at the end.
  5. Drizzle some oil over the noodles. Top with the lentil mixture (you might have some leftovers, which you can snack on while the dish bakes), followed by the sauce, using a spatula to spread and keep the layers even. Sprinkle some cinnamon and nutmeg on top.
  6. Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden brown on top. Let cool for at least 10 minutes in order for the pastitsio to keep its shape after cutting.

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  • Joe Baur
    Joe Baur
  • Nancy H.
    Nancy H.

2 Reviews

Nancy H. October 20, 2021
Our family loves Pastitsio (and Aunt Voula) and we now prefer a vegetarian version. It works well with plant-based meat substitutes although lentils are much more nutritious - I'll try that next time! I layer mine differently - pasta on top of sauce - and good Greek feta mixed into the pasta layer has always been a must. I'm interested that it's not part of this recipe, so perhaps I'll try that as well to see how much we miss it :)) My recipe calls for a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar in the sauce which gives it a lovely zip as well as a handful of currants - highly recommended. Frankly however, it's the nutmeggy bechamel that really makes this dish, and so veganizing it (which my daughter would now prefer) is a REAL challenge. Still, any effort to limit meat and animal products is good for the planet - thank you for the new inspiration!
Joe B. October 20, 2021
Thanks for writing! Glad you've found your way to vegetarian pastitsio. Good luck veganizing Greek food! (I've grown to love feta too much :). )