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Pastitsio - Greek Macaroni, Lentil & Tomato Bake - from scratch or with shortcuts

gluten free
wheat free
cheap as chickpeas
freezable
2 spoon difficulty rating

60 minutes

Serves: 4-6

Pastitsio - Greek Macaroni, Lentil & Tomato Bake - from scratch or with shortcuts

A delicious vegan variation on a traditional Greek recipe - and made mostly from storecupboard basics so economical too! Don’t be put off by the three components of this dish - it’s actually pretty easy as the two sauces and pasta more or less cook at the same time - and we suggest some shortcuts too! But once it's in the oven you can put your feet up or make a large green salad! It’s worth making double quantities for the next day. And it freezes well.

The ragout is a rich tomato sauce with the addition of whole lentils - although veggie mince would also work well. Make our ragout recipe or use a ready-made jar of pasta sauce!
Béchamel is a classic white sauce - and the dish has a delicious Greek twist because of the cinnamon. Alternatively, use Free & Easy cheesy sauce mix for a quick fix. 
The two sauces are added to macaroni or penne pasta and baked in the oven. Very comforting and filling!

 

Budget tips: cook your own lentils and/or use savoury TVP (dried veggie mince, the dark brown variety - if you can't find it, soak the paler type in a little strong vegetable stock)

Thanks to Valerie Mitchell for the original recipe and inspiration.

Photo courtesy of Mouthwatering Vegan with thanks

Ingredients: 

The recipe  below is the 'from scratch' version. See above for shortcuts for the ragout and the bechamel sauce. 

 

  • 160g/6oz wholemeal macaroni or penne (use GF if desired)
  • A little paprika, plain or smoked, to sprinkle on top of casserole whilst cooking (optional)

Tomato & Lentil Sauce (Ragout):

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 courgettes, cut lengthways, then sliced into semi-circles
  • 1 large red pepper, de-seeded and sliced into square chunks
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin brown or green lentils, rinsed and drained OR 100g dried lentils – cooked to make just over double this weight
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 level tsp cinnamon
  • Salt and black pepper

 

Béchamel sauce:

  • 30g/1oz vegan margarine or 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 heaped tbsp wholemeal flour OR GF version: 2 heaped tsp arrowroot
  • 225ml/8fl oz soya or other plant milk, eg rice, oat, almond - preferably unsweetened
  • 1 small onion stuck with a few cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Pinch dried thyme
  • Pinch grated nutmeg
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 5 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (Marigold Engevita brand, sold in health stores)

Method: 

Tomato & Lentil Ragout
1. Fry the onions until translucent. Add red pepper, courgette and garlic and cook until soft.

2. Add tomatoes, herbs and spices and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, put medium pan of water on for the pasta.

4. Add lentils or soya mince to ragout, stirring in gently, then reduce heat and simmer. Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas Mark 7 so it is ready for the bake.
 

Bechamel Sauce
1. Heat oil in pan on a low heat.

2. When it is hot, add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon so it mixes in well. (The smooth paste which forms is called a roux.) If using the arrowroot version, just mix it in with a little plant milk first then add to the oil, stirring constantly.

3. Keep stirring the roux so the flour cooks, but without burning the fat.

4. Add the plant milk in about 3-4 stages, stirring well after each batch so lumps don’t form. (If it does go lumpy, no worries. Simply beat the mixture with a balloon whisk to make it smooth).

5. Add rest of Béchamel sauce ingredients and simmer on a very low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring to avoid sticking.

6. Cook the pasta in the pan of boiling water according to the packet instructions.

7. Drain pasta and put half of it in a layer in the bottom of an oven-proof dish.

8. Add half the ragout, then repeat layers with the rest of the pasta and ragout.

9. Remove the onion and bay leaf from the béchamel sauce, adjust seasoning if necessary and pour over casserole. Add a sprinkling of paprika if using. Bake in a hot oven for 20-25 minutes and serve hot.

Balloon whisk - very useful for getting the lumps out of sauces

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