enough olive oil, to just coat the bottom of a large pot
2 large onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs lean ground meat (I often use a combo of beef and pork, lamb would be good too, but go heavier on the beef)
2 (16 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice
1/3 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine
1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
1 lb penne or rigatoni pasta
8 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups whole milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup grated kefalotiri or romano cheese or parmesan cheese
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 lb grated kefalotiri or romano cheese or parmesan cheese, divided
For the meat sauce, put some olive oil in a large pot; saute onion until lightly browned; add garlic; add meat and cook until brown, crumbling with a fork; add remaining meat sauce ingredients to skillet; mix well; cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until quite thick; let mixture cool; remove and discard cinnamon stick and bay leaf.
Prepare pasta by boiling until al dente in plenty of boiling, salted water; drain and place pasta in a large bowl; add butter, milk, eggs and 1/2 cup cheese; gently stir to coat; set aside.
To prepare bechamel sauce, melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan; stir in flour until smooth, cook, whisking for 2 minutes; gradually add milk, stirring, until thickened; lower heat; add salt, pepper and nutmeg; remove from heat.
In medium-sized bowl, beat 3 eggs; slowly add hot cream sauce to eggs; stir thoroughly so eggs don’t curdle.
Preheat oven to 350 F and butter or oil (with olive oil) a large baking pan (my pan is about 18" x 10").
Empty 1/2 of the penne mixture over bottom of pan; cover evenly with all of meat sauce; sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over meat sauce; add remaining penne mixture, spreading evenly; sprinkle another 1/3 of the cheese over top; pour bechamel sauce evenly over entire casserole; top with remaining cheese.
Bake until bechamel sauce sets and has golden-brown patches across top, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour; cool atleast 20 minutes before cutting into pieces for serving.
Freezer Notes: Once the baked pastitsio has completely cooked, cut serving-size pieces, double-wrap in foil and freeze. Defrost in the usual manner and reheat in microwave (or oven) for a delicious, quick meal, when there’s little time to cook and dinner is ready and waiting in the freezer!