When we think of Greek food, we often think of pastitsio. This delicious dish made up of pasta, mince meat sauce and bechamel has become synonymous with Greek cuisine. The word pastitsio derives from the Italian word pasticcio which means pie, and famous Greek chef Nikolas Tselemnedes added a French touch to it before including it in his famous cookbook “Cooking and Patisserie Guide” published in 1920.
In episode 3 of Together in the Kitchen with Maria and Mary, the women take on this traditional Greek dish. Mary shows us how to make this delicious dish, while Maria provides a gluten alternative. She suggests replacing traditional pasta with chickpea, brown rice, or lentil pasta.
Why make a gluten free version of pastitsio? Well more than often, gluten is not friendly to your gut. Wheat is a grain that contains a problem protein, GLUTEN. Think of gluten or wheat issues, and you probably think of the gut first. The typical symptoms are all gut related.
The gut biome is the collection of friendly bacteria that live in your gut, synthesise nutrients like vitamin K2, send hunger/fullness signals to your brain, and do all kinds of other stuff. But they really don’t like gluten, and gluten really doesn’t like them.
Inflammation is caused by many things, one being gluten. Inflammation in the gut contributes to a problem called intestinal permeability. The gut has a very complex system of “border control” that lets digested food into your bloodstream (this is how you get nutrients from it) while keeping everything else out.
Every day, you swallow millions of random viruses, bacteria, indigestible molecules like dust, and other stuff that needs to go out the other end, not into your bloodstream. Inflammation in the gut messes up that system of border control. It loosens the junctions between cells in the gut wall so too much stuff can pass through. This is often described as making the gut “leaky” (hence the popular name of “leaky gut”).
Over time, gut inflammation can eventually become systemic inflammation and can wreak havoc. Some of the most common symptoms are bloating, abdominal pain, constipation and/or diarrhoea, joint or muscle pain, eczema, headaches, fatigue, brain fog, anemia, infertility and autoimmune diseases.
So, the next time you are craving a juicy piece of Pastitsio but are worried about your gut, just know there are alternatives that won’t make you feel bad.
Mary’s Delicious Pastitsio
5 tbsp olive oil
1kg organic beef mince
1 onion chopped
3 garlic chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 bay leaves
400g crushed tomato
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup plain flour
1 Tbsp corn flour
6-7 cups full cream milk
Grated Kefalogaviera, as much as you’d like.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Macaronia - tubular pasta (can be replaced with chickpea/rice/lentil/cauliflower pasta)
Boil pasta, drain, add to a large 14” tray, add a splash of olive oil and a generous grating of cheese. Set aside and begin the meat sauce.
Over medium heat combine the oil, onion and garlic and sauté until it sweats. Add the beef mince and break it apart over the heat stirring through continuously until it’s browned (approx 10 mins).
Pour in the white wine and cook off the alcohol for 2-3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, dried herbs and spices. Follow by adding 1.5 cups of water and combine everything well. Add your seasoning and allow the sauce to simmer over medium heat for approximately 30-40 minutes with the lid ajar stirring occasionally. Once ready spoon evenly over the pasta and set aside.
Preheat your oven to 180c. To prepare the bechamel add the butter, flour and corn flour to a pot over medium heat. As the butter melts, cook off the flour for approx 2 minutes. Follow by adding a cup of milk at a time to the pot, adding each one once the previous has thickened. Whisk continuously until all the milk has been added and the bechamel has thickened. Grate in as much kefalogaviera as you like season to taste then quickly whisk the egg through. Pour the bechamel over the pasta and meat and finish with another sprinkle of cheese. Bake for approx 30 mins until golden on top. Once ready allow the pastitsio to sit for 20 minutes before cutting.
Watch Episode 3 of Together in the Kitchen with Maria and Mary here: