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Pastitsio

Pastitsio is one of the Greek dishes that will be available at the Napa-Solano County Greek Festival on Sept. 21 and 22 at the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Vallejo. 

A highlight of the Napa-Solano County Greek Festival on Sept. 21 and 22 will be the homemade Greek food — savory dishes and pastries along with Greek beer and wine and ouzo.

The festival is 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, 1224 Alabama St., Vallejo.

The Greek church was founded and built in 1947 when a few Greek families mortgaged their own homes to purchase the land and the construction of the church. A few years later, they built the community hall adjacent to the church.

The members began hosting an annual festival in the 1970s. Since then, each year the community comes together to cook, bake and serve authentic Greek dishes and pastries.

The cooks shared a recipe for one of the dishes they are preparing for the weekend, the classic pastitsio,

1 kilo (approximately 2.2 pounds) of lean ground beef

3 medium onions, diced

¼ cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 bay leaves

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 can crushed plum

tomatoes

¼ cup dry white wine

2-3 allspice berries

1 tsp. oregano

½ tsp. ground cinnamom

Salt and pepper to taste.

1 package of Misko #2 or Bucatini pasta (500 grams)

Meat sauce:

In a large skillet, add olive oil and start sauteeing the onions and bay leaves on medium-low heat for 12-15 minutes until they are soft and translucent.

Add the ground beef and garlic, turn the heat to high and brown the meat. Strain off any excess fat.

Add the tomato paste and wine and simmer until most of the wine has been absorbed.

Add the crushed tomatoes, allspice and oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer until the meat sauce becomes thick.

Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove the allspice and bay leaves. Reserve.

Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. When it’s boiling, salt it generously and cook the past for approximately 10 minutes.

Strain the pasta and reserve.

Bechamel sauce:

1 stick of butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

8 cups of whole milk, warmed

4 eggs at room temperature, beaten

1 cup grated Vlahotyri cheese (or Gran Padano)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp. grated nutmeg

½cup grated Kefalotyri cheese (or Romano) for topping

Put the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When it is melted, add the flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes or until the flour has turned light brown.

Whisk the roux as your pour in a steady stream of milk. If you get lumps, use a potato masher to break them up.

Go back to stirring with your wooden spoon and bring the Bechamel sauce to a boil over medium heat. Continue stirring until your Bechamel has become thick or coats the back of a the spoon.

Remove from heat and pour a steady stream of the beaten eggs into the mixture.

Add the grated Vlahotyri and nutmeg and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Cover and reserve.

Assembly:

Preheat the over to 375 degrees, with a rack in the middle.

Assemble the pastitsio in a rectangular roasting pan.

Mix about 1 ladle of Bechamel sauce into the meat sauce. Mix about 3 ladles of Bechamel sauce into the pasta. These steps will ensure your pastitsio stays moist as a left-over.

Pour enough Bechamel sauce to cover the bottom of the roasting pan.

Spread half of your pasto over the bottom layer of the sauce.

Pour all of your meat sauce over your first layer of sauce.

Spread your second layer of pasta over the meat sauce.

Pour the remainder of the Bechamel sauce over the last layer of pasta and smooth out the sauce to make it even.

Spread the grated Kafalotyri over the Bechamel sauce and place into the pre-heated over or 45-60 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove from oven.

Allow the pastitsio to rest for 30-45 minutes before serving.

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