This is a great dish for the holiday buffet. A large tray will feed up to 16 hungry revelers. The pastitsio isn’t traditional, of course. For one, there is no meat in this dish, but the savory tomato sauce filled with hearty chunks of sweet pumpkin more than makes up for that, as does the generous amount of cheese. It’s a tad time consuming, but each component can be prepared ahead, separately, and the pastitsio prepared the day before serving. You can even assemble it and freeze it, then defrost and bake as directed.
For the Filling
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 large onions chopped
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 2 ½ pounds pumpkin or butternut squash peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup chopped mint leaves only
For the sauce
- 4 cups chopped canned tomato
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons Greek honey
- Salt and pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 to 4 sprigs thyme
- 1 pound / 450 g feta cheese crumbled
- 1 pound / 450 g fresh ricotta or Greek anthotyro drained
- 3 eggs
- Grating of fresh nutmeg
- 12 lasagna sheets
- 1 ½ cups grated graviera kefalograviera or other mild yellow sheep’s milk cheese
Make the filling: Heat oil and butter in a wide saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Sprinkle a pinch salt over the onions and garlic. Cook over low heat for about 8 minutes until softened. Add about ½ cup water and simmer uncovered until the onions are caramelized. Stir in the pumpkin and cook for five minutes, to soften a little and to release its flavors. Add the tomato, wine, water, salt, and pepper. Cook until there is no longer any liquid in the pot and the pumpkin is chunky but very soft. Stir in the mint. Remove from heat and cool.
Bring all the ingredients for the sauce to a boil in a medium saucepan, reduce heat and simmer until thick, about 20 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the cheeses, eggs and nutmeg. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 400° F/200° C.
Drizzle the bottom of a medium size nonstick baking pan with 2 cups of the sauce. The pan should be large enough to hold 4 raw lasagna sheets in one layer. Place the 4 lasagna sheets over the sauce. Spread 1 / 3 of the pumpkin filling on top and then 1 / 3 of cheese. Repeat two more times ending with a layer of cheese. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the top layer and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Bake for 1 hour, or until set. Remove, cool for 20 – 30 minutes, and serve.
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You can make the sauce and filling a day or two before actually assembling the pastitsio. You can also make the pumpkin mixture a week ahead, freeze, and defrost before using.