Pastitsio Venetsianiko


The name of this Greek recipe says it all. Pastitsio Venetsianiko, or Venetian Pastitsio, is one of the great regional Greek dishes that evolved in Corfu, on the estates of the landed gentry, whose cooks would gather all the week’s leftovers and bake them into a glorious pasta dish cloaked in slightly sweet pastry. This is a festive dish, to be sure, one that takes some time to make, but will surely elicit a lot of oohs and ahhs from your dinner guests!

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water as needed

For the filling

  • 1 pound thick tubular spaghetti like bucatini
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter to taste
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • ½ pound Corfu noumboulo or other air-dried or smoked ham such as prosciutto, or cooked pork chop, diced
  • 1/2 pound Lefkada or other salami or mortadella diced
  • 2 to 3 small fresh sausages sauted, cooked through and chopped
  • 2 to 3 cups diced yellow cheese (graviera, kasseri, etc.), to taste
  • 4 hard-cooked eggs peeled and halved
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

For the bechamel

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 large egg yolks

Instructions

Make the pastry:

  1. In a food processor fitted with the pastry blade, pulse together the flour, salt,
  2. and sugar. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour. Pulse on and off until the flour is meaty, about 30 seconds. Add the ice water a little at a time form. Remove and shape the dough into 2 balls, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten each into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour but no longer than one day before using. Before rolling the dough out, let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  3. If making the pastry by hand, mix the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter, cut into small pieces, and cut it into the flour using either a pastry cutter or 2 knives, stopping when the mixture is the consistency of coarse meal. Add the ice water a little at a time and mix the dough quickly by hand until a mass takes form. Shape the dough into 2 balls, one slightly larger than the other, then flatten each into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
  4. Boil the pasta in salted water until it is softened but not completely cooked through. Drain, place back in the pot, and mix with the butter.

Make the bechamel :

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. When it begins to bubble, add the flour and stir vigorously with a wire whisk for several minutes until the flour turns pale gold. Add the milk, stirring all the while add the heavy cream. Continue stirring the béchamel over medium heat until very thick, 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt. Remove from the heat, cool slightly, and add the egg yolks, stirring vigorously.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 ° F. Lightly butter a 12-inch springform pan. Roll out the larger ball of dough to a circle big enough to fit up the sides of the pan and to hang over the edge a little. Place it in the pan.
  3. Mix half the buttered pasta with half of the meats and cheese, season with pepper and cayenne, and toss with about one-third of the bechamel, Place in the bottom of the pan. Place
  4. the hard-cooked eggs (8 halves) on top of the pasta so that they are evenly spaced. Combine the remaining pasta with the remaining meats and cheese season with additional pepper and cayenne as desired and toss with a little more bechamel. Spread evenly in the pan over the eggs. Pour in the remaining bechamel. Press the filling down with a plate or a big spoon.
  5. Roll out the second dough ball and place it over the filling. Press the edges together and fold inward to form a decorative rim around the pastitsio. Bake until the pastry is golden, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for 20 to 30 minutes, and serve.

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