Minced beef and macaroni pie
2 large finely chopped onions, 5 tbs. olive oil, 1 ¼ lb. (700 g) finely ground,
lean beef, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 4 fl oz (125 ml) white wine
1 can (13 fl oz/400 ml) peeled tomatoes, drained of juice, de-seeded and
chopped, 1 bay leaf, salt and pepper, a little nutmeg, 1 lb. (500 g) thick
For the béchamel: 14 oz (400 g) grated kefalotyri cheese (use a mixture of parmesan and pecoríno), 7 oz (200 g) butter,
7 oz (200 g) plain flour, 1 pint (1/2 litre) milk (use skimmed milk), 4 eggs
Sauté the onions in 2 tbs. of the oil, add the ground beef, brown carefully and add the cinnamon. Pour over the wine, raise the heat and simmer, stirring together for 3 minutes. Then add the tomatoes, bay leaf, salt and pepper Cover and allow to simmer for 30 minutes. In the meantime boil a large pan of lightly salted water and one tbs. of olive oil, and add the macaroni. Boil until just beginning to soften – they should be “half cooked” – then strain carefully Now divide the macaroni into three amounts, and spread one amount in a buttered, ovenproof casserole, sprinkle with a little cheese, pour half of the meat mixture on top, use the second third of the macaroni to form another layer on top of that, dust with cheese, then add the remaining meat in another layer and then a final layer consisting of the rest of the macaroni. Sprinkle once again with a little cheese (make sure at least half of the cheese is left over). Dot the layer of macaroni with flakes of butter Make a béchamel sauce by melting the butter over a gentle heat, adding the flour and stirring to form a thick cream. Now add the milk in stages, stirring over a low heat until the sauce thickens. Add most of the remaining cheese, some salt, pepper and a little nutmeg, and stir all together When the sauce has acquired quite a thick consistency, remove from the heat, allow it to cool a little, then add the beaten eggs one by one – a hand-held electric whisk is good for the purpose. Pour the béchamel over the macaroni, sprinkle over the remaining cheese, and bake in a moderate oven (350 F 180 C, gas mark 4) for about 40 minutes. The pastitsio should have a golden brown crust. Allow it to stand for a few minutes to cool down slightly before serving. I find that if pastitsio is made in advance and carefully reheated in the oven before required, it will taste even better Serves 4-6, depending on your appetite!