Pastitsio Ravioli with Light Bechamel
Wow! This is totally extravagant. the kind of dinner party food that takes a bit of effort to make and even more to clean up after! But it's worth it. I had some leftover pasta dough -- don't ask! I had made my son a burger for lunch. I took the remaining ground meat and made a classic pastitsio meat sauce with it, but kept it pretty dense, not too liquidy. Then, I filled homemade ravioli and whipped up a light bechamel. Consider this a mom's version of deconstructed pastitsio, nice enough for dinner guests and hungry 13-year-olds (they're always hungry!) to enjoy. For a lovingly curated array of Greek ingredients to pair with this recipe, check out my online store here.
- For the sauce you can make it a day ahead
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion chopped
- 1 garlic clove chopped
- 3/4 lb. / 350 g ground beef
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste prefereably Santorini sun-dried tomato paste, if you can find it!
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 3 allspice berries and 3 whole cloves tied up in a small piece of gauze
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the pasta dough
- 1 cup fine semolina flour
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 scant teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons water
For the bechamel
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 heaping tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup light cream
- Salt white pepper to taste
- Ground nutmeg to taste
- Cornmeal for laying the raw pasta over
- 10 chives finely chopped, for garnish
- 4 tablespoons crumbled Greek feta for garnish
Make the meat sauce
Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and cook the onions until soft and slightly colored. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute. Add the ground meat and stir until it turns from pink to grayish brown. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the wine, bay leaf, spices, salt and pepper. Simmer the sauce over low heat slightly covered until it is thick and all of the liquid has cooked off. Set aside to cool. You can make the sauce a day ahead and store in the refrigerator.
Make the pasta while the sauce is simmering: Place the two flours and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse on and off a few times to combine. Break the eggs over the surface of the flour. Pulse to combine and add the olive oil and water in increments, just until a dough mass forms. Remove it from the bowl of the processor and knead it slightly on a lightly floured surface until it is firm. Set aside for at least 30 minutes, wrapped in plastic. (You can make the dough a day ahead, too, and store it well-wrapped in the fridge.)
Make the bechamel a half hour before you want to serve the pasta. Heat the butter over medium-high flame and when it melts and bubbles add the flour and stir briskly with a wire whisk. Stir for about 4 - 5 minutes, until the flour starts to turn blond. Pour in the milk and cream, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir continuously with the whisk over medium heat until about as thick as a uncooked heavy cream. This bechamel should be loose.
Make the ravioli: Divide the dough into four pieces. Lightly flour a pasta maker. Flatten then pass the first piece of dough through the number 1 gauge on the pasta maker. Continue, passing it through the two gauge and so on, through number 5. You will get long strips of pasta about three inches wide. Place these in a large shallow pan or tray, the surface of which you hve sprinkled generously with cornmeal. Continue with the remaining pasta.
Cut the strips into three-inch / 7.5-cm squares. Fill each with a teaspoon of the meat filling, which should be chilled or at room temperature. Brush the edges of the dough carefully with a little bit of water. Fold over each dough square to form a rectangle and using a pizza cutter with a perforated edge, to shape a decorative rectangular ravioli. Set aside on a clean tray dusted with cornmeal. Continue until all the ravioli are shaped and the meat filling used up.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add two tablespoons of salt. Add about half the ravioli pieces at a time. Boil for about 4 minutes. (The boiling time may vary depending on how thick or think you ultimately roll out the dough.) Remove and transfer immediately to individual serving plates, five ravioli per portion. Spoon the bechamel over the ravioli, sprinkle with chopped chives and garnish with crumbled feta. Serve immediately.