Pastitsio is a delicious traditional Greek dish. It's a unique food consisted of three layers: pasta, mince, and rich béchamel. It is almost impossible to find yourself in a Greek restaurant (especially in a tourist area) and not find it on the menu.
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While it's incredibly delectable, many people avoid cooking it because it looks complicated, time-consuming, high in calories, and without much nutritional value. In other words, it is a misunderstood food since:
- Our vegan version, compared to the traditional Greek pastitsio, is much lower in calories, healthier, more nutritious and much higher in fiber, since we use almond milk, lots of vegetables, olive oil, turmeric, but also whole wheat flour, pasta, and rusks.
- It needs only 50 minutes from us. A little more than the average time we spend cooking other meals. See the notes, below, for instructions on how to save time.
- Overall, it is ready in an hour and a half from when we start the preparation, as it only takes 40 minutes to bake. So, the total time is not far from the time we spend preparing other daily meals.
Even though it may seem difficult, it's actually very simple! It takes 50 minutes of preparation, but the result is so rewarding! In just four steps you will have a really impressive meal:
- Boil pasta.
- Make the soya mince.
- Prepare the béchamel and topping.
- Bake and you're done!
You'll need to chop plenty of vegetables, so give your meal love and patience, 'cause this is the way to make it super tasty and nutritious. Usually, in vegan béchamel recipes some use soy milk. But because many people prefer almond milk or simply because it's the one they have available at home, our vegan Greek pastitsio is made with almond milk, which of course can be replaced with soy milk making the béchamel fluffier.
You can use any type of pasta you want. We recommend whole wheat penne, as they are high in fiber and the closest whole wheat pasta available (at least for now), to the thick spaghetti (bucatini) that are traditionally used.
When you make it, we look forward to reading your comments! 🙂
Greek vegan pastitsio with béchamel made from almond milk and olive oil
- 500 gr whole wheat penne (1 pack/17.6 oz) or bucatini
For the mince
- 170 gr organic soya mince (1 small package/5.9 oz)
- 3 grated tomatoes or blended or canned tomato juice (500 gr/ 17.6 oz)
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 1 large carrot finely diced
- 1 medium zucchini (optional) finely diced
- ½ pepper chopped (preferably Florina pepper)
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp allspice
- ½ tsp cloves
- ½ tsp curry
- ½ tsp sweet paprika
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder (optional)
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika (optional)
- 1 tsp unprocessed sugar or other vegan sweetener
- ¼ cup olive oil for sautéing
- salt and pepper
For the béchamel
For the topping (optional)
- 1 large whole wheat rusk or 3 small ones or whole wheat toasted bread
- 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (preferably reinforced with B12)
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- Soak the soya mince in hot water for 10 minutes to inflate and soften.
- While waiting, heat some water in a pot. When it boils, add the pasta and cook for two minutes less than indicated on the packaging instructions.
- After ten minutes, drain the mince in a strainer, rinse, and finally press it with your fist (inside the strainer) to remove excess water.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium to high heat.
- Once warm, add the onion and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring often.
- Then, add the soya mince and spices. Raise the temperature a bit and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
- Next, add the carrot, zucchini, and pepper and continue sautéing for another 5 minutes or until the soya mince starts to turn golden brown.
- Add the garlic and continue sautéing for another 2 minutes.
- Finally, add the tomatoes and sugar and as soon as it starts to boil, lower the temperature and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
- Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium to high heat.
- Gradually, add the flour, stirring constantly. If it sticks, lower the temperature a bit.
- Once the flour is lightly cooked (that is, as soon as it gets a slightly darker color and starts to smell, in about 5 minutes), add the almond milk, nutmeg and salt, and stir for another 7 minutes or until thickened and becomes a liquid cream. It shouldn't be too liquidy. If you want, just before it thickens, add the nutritional yeast and stir well.
Prepare and bake the pastitsio
- Preheat oven to 200°C/ 392°F.
- In a medium baking pan (about 35x27x5 cm/11x15x2 in) arrange the pasta, spread the mince on top, then pout the béchamel on top and finally sprinkle (optionally) with the topping. Bake on the middle rack for 40 minutes or until the béchamel is nicely golden brown.
- To save time:
- Add water in two pots at the same time and bring to a boil. One pot is for soya mince and one for the pasta. If you have a kettle, you can speed up the process even more.
- While the pasta is boiling, prepare the vegetables for the mince.
- Two minutes before finishing the preparation of the vegetables, heat the pan with the olive oil.
- While the mince is been cooked, prepare the topping.
- Preheat the oven when starting the béchamel. That way, when the béchamel is ready, you will put the pastitsio in the oven to bake right away.
- Instead of almond milk you can use soy milk. So, you will have a fluffier béchamel.
- To drain the soya mince well and give it a better texture, place the strainer with the soya mince on a large plate and press it with your fist as if kneading it. If the dish is filled with water, empty it and continue pressing with your fist until it is relatively dry. That is, until you press it and little or no water comes out.
- Cut the carrot and zucchini firstly lengthwise (not slices) about half a centimeter (0.2 in) thick. Then cut into strips, also half a centimeter (0.2 in), and finally each strip into pieces also half a centimeter (0.2 in). The goal is to have small cubes to give texture in the mince.
- About the pasta :
- You can boil it in vegetable broth for extra flavor and nutrients.
- You can boil it in water, adding ½ tsp turmeric powder and 2 bay leaves. That way the pasta will have a light aroma and at the same time you take advantage of the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action of turmeric.
- When you put them in the baking pan, you can mix them with 4 Tbsp of your soya mince, olive oil, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and nutritional yeast for extra flavor.
- The topping is optional. We recommend it, as it creates a crust giving a wonderful texture and rich flavor. Alternatively, you can use:
- Ground nuts.
- Vegan topping: In a blender mix ½ cup cashews, 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast, salt and pepper, and ¼ tsp onion powder, ¼ tsp garlic powder and ¼ tsp sweet paprika.