Pastitsio : baked greek pasta with lamb

A simple authentic recipe for Pastitsio- a baked Greek pasta dish with a rich flavorful lamb (or beef) bolognese infused with Greek spices and flavors. Perfect for entertaining! 

A friend introduced Pastitsio to me a couple of years ago and I was instantly smitten. Deep, rich and hearty, this baked pasta dish has roots in Greece and the Middle East. It is perfect for special occasions or entertaining where you can share, and not be temped to devour the entire thing because believe me, you will want to.  The last time I made this I immediately packaged up ⅔  of it to give to friends. You could also freeze half to save for later.

Ground lamb (or beef) is cooked with onion, garlic and spices  then simmered with tomato sauce and infused with cinnamon until it becomes a deep, rich,  Greek-style  “bolognese” – the flavorful base of the dish. Add cooked penne to the meaty hearty sauce, and top it with a nutmeg infused béchamel, before going into the oven to bake. When it comes out, it’s bubbly and golden.

I prefer to use sustainably raised, locally grown, American lamb, which is raised closer to home compared to imported lamb that travels from great distances to get here. For one, it’s fresher but more importantly, it supports our local community. It’s produced in nearly every state and is available fresh year round, just check your local farmers market. In years past we’ve bought ½ or ¼ of a lamb locally and kept it frozen, which is always an option too.

American lamb is always raised hormone-free and producers go to great lengths to give their animals healthy, comfortable lives, letting them graze and forage on a variety of nutrient-dense grasses and legumes – producing succulent, sweet and tender meat.

It starts with making the falvorful Lamb bolognese

Sprinkle with cheese.

The bake the Pastitsio until golden and bubbly.

Pastitsio! A delicious Greek inspired, baked pasta dish made with penne pasta, lamb bolognese and a béchamel sauce.

  • Author: Sylvia Fountaine
  • Prep Time: 45
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 10 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Greek


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 pounds ground lamb ( or use half ground beef or ground turkey ) 
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
  • 6 cloves garlic, rough chopped, or 2 tablespoons granulated garlic
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon ( don’t skimp) 
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano ( or 1 tablespoon fresh chopped ) 
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour ( or gluten free flour) 
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¾  teaspoon kosher salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, or Kasseri cheese 
  • ½ cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 extra large eggs, beaten

3/4 pound penne pasta 

parmesan for sprinkling

Garnish : 1 tablespoon fresh thyme


Start the lamb bolognese: heat oil in a large heavy bottom pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onion, ground meat and salt, breaking up the meat with a metal spatula. Cook 10-12 minutes, stirring often until onions are tender and meat is browned. Drain any fat. Splash with the red wine and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes, then add garlic and cinnamon, cumin, oregano and pepper.  Sauté for 2 minutes until garlic is fragrant. Stir in crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer on low heat, covered, for 20 minutes. Taste, add more salt if you like.

Preheat oven to 400 F

While this is simmering, boil the pasta water and make the béchamel sauce. Heat the oil in a medium pot, over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the oil into a smooth paste and cook for 60 seconds. Whisk in 1 cup milk until smooth and thickened, then immediately, add the remaining  1  1/2 cups milk and whisk until smooth and thickened again. Add salt, nutmeg, white pepper and parmesan, and stir until cheese melts and sauce is smooth. Set aside and let cool for 10 minutes.

Cook the pasta and drain.

Once the béchamel has cooled 10 minutes ( warm is ok, just not hot), stir int the yogurt and beaten egg.

Add the cooked pasta to the Bolognese sauce and mix. Pour into a large greased baking dish (9×13) or 12 inch oven proof skillet. Top with the béchamel sauce covering it evenly. Sprinkle with ½ cup more parmesan and scatter with fresh thyme leaves. Bake 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.