When a home cook like me works side by side with the chefs de cuisine at various Greek restaurants, all sorts of ideas germinate. Pastitsio, the classic baked pasta and meat dish, gets a breath of fresh air in this fun and easy recipe. I took the basic components of a classic pastitsio and turned them into these elegant ravioli. They’re perfect for a dinner party entrée.
For the filling
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 3 allspice berries
- 3 whole cloves
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion chopped
- 1 garlic clove chopped
- ¾ pound 340 g ground beef
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup 240 ml white wine
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 48 wheat-based wonton wrappers
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
For the béchamel
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Scant 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups 360 ml milk
- ½ cup 120 ml light cream
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 10 fresh chives finely chopped, for garnish
- ¼ cup 40 g crumbled Greek feta, for garnish
Make the meat filling: Put the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, allspice, and cloves on a square of cheesecloth and tie it into a bundle. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and lightly colored, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the ground meat and cook, stirring, until it turns from pink to grayish brown. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the wine, spice bundle, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer over low heat until the filling is thick and all the liquid has cooked off. Set aside to cool completely, then drain off excess fat, if necessary. The filling can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
When you’re ready to make the ravioli, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 8 wonton wrappers in front of you on a clean work surface. Brush the edges lightly with the beaten egg. Place 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of each wrapper. Top each with a second wonton wrappers to cover the filling, aligning the edges of the wrappers. Use your fingers or the tines of a fork to seal the edges well. Place the ravioli on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat to fill the remaining wonton wrappers, layering another sheet of parchment on top of the ravioli if they don’t all fit in one layer. At this point, the entire baking sheet can be wrapped tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated for 1 to 2 days.
Thirty minutes before you want to serve the ravioli, make the béchamel: In a wide pot or saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the flour and stir briskly with a wire whisk to incorporate. Cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture starts to turn blond. Pour in the milk and cream and season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring continuously with the whisk, until the béchamel thickens but not so much that it becomes pasty. This béchamel should be loose, like a cream sauce.
Cook the ravioli: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Add about half the ravioli and boil for about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer immediately to a platter or individual serving plates. Repeat to cook the remaining ravioli.
Spoon some of the béchamel over the ravioli, sprinkle with chopped chives, and garnish with crumbled feta. Serve immediately.