After browning the ground meat it was clear to me, by the aroma, that I had lamb and not beef. Still with pasta on my mind, I decided to make pastitsio. It was one of my favourite meals when I was on vacation in Crete. That, with a tumbler of their homemade wine!
I only had evaporated milk. I reconstituted it with water and used it instead of fresh milk. All the other ingredients were in my pantry. The evaporated milk worked perfectly. The spices are essential. Don't wimp out and omit them.
Pastitsio or Greek Style Lasagna
For meat sauce:
1 medium onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 pounds ground lamb
2 cups homemade tomato sauce
2 thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
For béchamel sauce:
1/4 c tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 c all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or kefalotyri cheese
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp salt
1 pound ziti
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or kefalotyri cheese
Make meat sauce:
Cook onions in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Increase heat to high, then stir in lamb and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any lumps with a fork, until meat starts to brown, about 15 minutes.
Pour off excess fat from skillet, then stir in tomato sauce, thyme, spices, and 1 tsp salt. Simmer over low heat, partially covered, until some liquid has evaporated but sauce is still moist, about 40 minutes. Discard thyme.
Make béchamel while meat sauce simmers:
Melt butter in a heavy medium pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking frequently, until pale golden, about 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat milk in a heavy medium saucepan until just about to boil. Add milk to roux in a stream, whisking constantly until very smooth. Bring sauce to a boil over medium heat, whisking, then cook, whisking, 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg, cheese, and 1 tsp salt.
Lightly beat yolks in a bowl. Gradually whisk in 2 cups béchamel, then whisk yolk mixture into remaining béchamel in saucepan. Cover with a round of buttered wax paper (buttered side down).
Cook pasta and assemble pastitsio:
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Cook ziti in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (3 tablespoons salt for 6 quarts water) until al dente. Drain pasta, then transfer to a large bowl and stir in 1 cup béchamel.
Arrange one third of pasta lengthwise in 1 layer in a large (9- x 11-inch) baking pan (about 2 inches deep). Add half of meat sauce to baking pan, spreading evenly over pasta. Make another layer of pasta and top with remaining meat sauce, then arrange remaining pasta on top.
Spread remaining béchamel evenly over top layer of pasta. Sprinkle with more grated parmesan cheese. Bake until golden brown and sauce is bubbling, about 45 minutes.