How can one not say this without an exclamation point? Pastitsio! This little Greek dish is basically a pasta, meaty, cheesy casserole. I was going through my “Joy of Cooking” looking for a good recipe for the week. (I rarely cook on weekdays because of the amount of time I like to spend in preparation of a good meal.) I discovered that “Joy” has a wonderful little section of lists of dishes under sub-categories such as: Wedding Buffet, Mother’s Day, Easter, Afternoon Tea, Cocktail Parties, 30-Minute Meals, etc. I chose this dish from a section called “Cook for a Day, Eat for a Week.” This was ideal, so it seemed. Cook for a day it was though! It must have taken me 2 and a half hours to complete this and that isn’t counting the grocery shopping. This was also a more difficult recipe, both in the cooking and in making it healthier. Most of the ingredients were fairly standard so I made substitutions where possible. The result wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. The first bite right of the oven was a gooey, cheesy, yummy one; but after reheating it, the second opinion is a lackluster one. It was something akin to Hamburger Helper. I don’t necessarily denigrate Hamburger Helper. It is an excellent college staple, but I was expecting something more spectacular. Maybe it would have been for a family dinner straight out of the oven. It also called for cinnamon in the recipe, which I added against my better judgment (trying to keep it close to authentic, after all) but I would definitely omit on a next experience. The dish is certainly edible, but probably not a favorite.
In any case, if you want the recipe, I will send it to you; but here I will just touch on the healthier substitutions: instead of ground beef, I used ground turkey. I later discovered that to make it authentically, it is supposed to be lamb; which is much healthier, but harder to find ground. I also made the white sauce with nonfat milk and cut the serving size down from 3 3/4 cups to just 3. I also omitted the red wine, which may have saved a carb or three. I picked whole-wheat, whole-grain penne pasta instead of the cheap white-flour stuff. I wish I had used the Artisan shredded parmesan as opposed to the Kraft grated parmesan as the flavor would have been more pleasing. I used low-fat feta as it was on sale and tasted the same right out of the package. And if I never have to mince another teaspoon of parsley as long as I live, I will die a happy woman!
The next time I make Pastitsio, it will be full-fat and for a family gathering and we’ll see if that makes a difference. I’ll keep you posted.