Recipe: Eggplant pastitsio -- Greek-style lasagna

by Julie Snyder

Eggplant pastitsioPastitsio is the Greek cuisine answer to lasagna.

A combination of ground meat, diced eggplant, tomatoes and spices make the base. Then tubular pasta, cheese sauce and more meat is spread on top.

It's baked until bubbly and golden brown. It's a dish you'll make year after year.

It's comforting, delicious and with a few simple ingredient tweaks can be made vegetarian or vegan.

This cheesy casserole served with a traditional Greek salad sure to please guests and family and leave tummies quite full!

Eggplant pastitsio

Prep time: 45 minutes | Total time: 2 hours | Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 large eggplant, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
• 1/2 pound ground lamb, turkey, chicken or beef (optional)
• 1/2 cup chopped onion
• 2 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 cup tomato paste
• 1/2 cup dry white wine, water or broth
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper, optional
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1 1/3 cups low-fat cottage cheese
• 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
• 2 cups whole-grain elbow macaroni or penne pasta, cooked, drained and cooled

Directions

Heat the oil over medium heat in large non-stick skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ground meat, if using and sauté until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté and additional 2 minutes.

A combination of ground lamb, diced eggplant, crushed tomatoes and spices make the base. Pasta is tossed with a creamy feta cheese sauce — because what casserole doesn’t have cheese? –and spread on top. It is baked until it starts to brown and bubble. Suddenly, you’ve got something you’ll make year after year.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Add eggplant and onions. Cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low. Stir in tomato paste, wine (or water), salt and spices. Cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, combine eggs and cheeses. Set aside.

Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with a non-stick cooking spray. Spread 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the eggplant/meat mixture in the bottom of the dish. Add the pasta, then the cheese mixture then remaining eggplant mixture.

Bake, uncovered until the top is golden, about 30 to 45 minutes. Allow it to rest 15 minutes. Cut and serve.

Cook's note

As with many Greek recipes, especially casseroles, this dish tastes even better on day after it's baking. Make it today, refrigerate and heat well before cutting and serving.

I often double this recipe and freeze portions for later. It's a great side dish for large groups/potlucks and leftovers, if you have any.

Does your family enjoy eggplant pastitsio. How do you make it?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.