Pastitsio!

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.

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