• Shalini Vemuri

Spinach Pastitsio

A cheesy Greek pasta bake with the goodness of spinach and garlic. The rich Béchamel sauce with hints of red pepper flakes and nutmeg makes it a hearty meal!



#spinach

#cheesy

#flavorful

#vegetarian

#delicious

#pasta

#Mediterranean


Spinach Patitsio is essentially a Greek version of Mac and Cheese for adults. I was introduced to this dish at a cozy Mediterranean restaurant called Café Athena here in San Diego. I was blown away by the simplicity and flavor of the dish. It's baked to perfection with layers of boiled pasta, béchamel and sautéed Spinach.

Any pasta that can hold sauce better can be used to make this dish. Personally, my preference is Penne, Cavatappi and Shell as they tend to hold a lot more sauce. Some present this dish as a Lasagna as a well.


Key ingredients are butter, milk, flour, white cheddar, parmesan and spinach.


The recipe requires the preparation of Béchamel sauce. It's a simple yet versatile sauce that can be used in multiple pasta bakes and recipes.


Using a cheese block and grating it works better in case of the White cheddar as it melts and blends better in the sauce, rather than a pre-shredded kind that is available in a pack.


If you are vegetarian make sure to check there is no rennet/ animal enzymes in the cheese and opt for Vegetarian parmesan. Here is a good one https://amzn.to/33TuQTz #ad


Tillamook White Cheddar cheese that explicitly reads No Animal Enzymes and Suitable for Vegetarians. https://amzn.to/33TVATZ #ad


RECIPE


Serves 3 people Ready in 35 min

Ingredients


2 tbsp Butter

2 tbsp All Purpose flour

1 1/4 cup Milk

1 cup Extra sharp White Cheddar- grated

1 cup Parmesan cheese - grated

1 tsp Pepper

2 cups uncooked Pasta

2 cups sautéed Spinach

2 pods of garlic

Pinch of Nutmeg

1/4 cup Extra sharp White Cheddar- grated for the bake

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese - grated for the bake

Salt to taste



Preparation


Pasta

1. Boil pasta of choice as per package instructions. For the most flavorful pasta, bring in the water to a rolling boil, add in a tbsp of olive oil and at least 3 tbsp of salt. Then add the pasta and boil it based on the instructions on the package.


Béchamel sauce

1. While the pasta is boiling, prepare the Béchamel sauce also popularly known as white sauce.

3. Warm the milk. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and mix constantly until the paste cooks and the raw smell disappears. Takes a couple of minutes. Take care not to brown the mixture.

4. Add the warm milk and stir continuously till the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon when you dip it, that's the consistency you are looking for. It should be smooth and silky.

5.Add Nutmeg and pepper to taste. Set the heat to low.

6. Add the shredded cheddar and parmesan cheese, and stir continuously until the cheese melts and is fully incorporated. Turn off the flame.

7. DO NOT ADD salt in the sauce. The cheese can make it quite salty already.


Spinach

1.Heat olive oil in a pan.

2.Chop garlic into slivers and add them to the oil and sauté for a bit until golden brown.

3.Add fresh or frozen spinach and sauté it until its well cooked.

4.Add salt to taste. Check the amount of salt that is being added , as there are salty elements involved in every step of the process.


Assemble and Bake

1.Preheat the oven to 350F

2.Coat an oven safe casserole dish with butter.

3.Start with a layer of 1/3rd or 1/2 of the béchamel sauce.

4. Spinach is your second layer and top that with boiled pasta. Again only use 1/3rd or 1/2.

5. Repeat the process with the remaining layers.

6. Top with white cheddar and parmesan cheese and bake for 15 min until the cheese is bubbly.



Tips


Serve hot. Can be made ahead of time and warmed up until bubbly before serving. Add a bit of hot sauce or red pepper flakes to amp up the heat.


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