Chef's Table: Greek Pasta Bake

It would be the understatement of the last three thousand years to say the Greeks and Italians have had a pretty bumpy partnership. Since the Romans, there have been invasions and occupations from both sides. But there has been a lot of constructive collaborations too.

The Greek Gods were the inspiration for the Roman Gods.  The Romans gave the Greeks Pasta.  This was easy to make and could be preserved for years.  The Greeks, grudgingly, love the stuff and use it for many a dish. 

I am not a big fan of lasagne or moussaka, I find them very heavy and difficult to get through on a hot summer day.  But one day, on a small island called Los, I was persuaded to try something else. Using Greek yoghurt, eggs and Feta cheese, this dish was lighter and very tasty.

So, to make Greek Pasta Bake you need the following:

  • 450 g of good quality lamb mince

  • One large onion

  • A handful of mushrooms

  • Half an aubergine

  • One tin of tomatoes

  • Mavrodaphne red wine

  • Half a cereal bowl of short pasta (spiralli, penne or similar, rather than lasagne sheets or spaghetti)

  • Two eggs

  • 250 grams of plain Greek yoghurt (with a splash of milk if needed)

  • A handful of crumbled feta cheese

  • A tablespoon of cinnamon

  • A tablespoon of oregano

  • A tablespoon of marjoram

  • Worcestershire sauce (yes, I know)

  • A pinch of salt, pepper and sugar.

You also need a hot wok or cooking pot, and a large baking dish.

Right, let's get started.

  1. Take  a damp cloth and spread it out on a work top.  Place a GREEN chopping board over the top.  Now peel and finely chop the onion, slice the mushrooms, and peel and chop the aubergine into small cubes.

  2. Fry off the onions until they are brown, add the onions and the aubergine.  Continue to fry until the veg are all softened.  Then, move them to a separate dish for the next part.

  3. Add your lamb mince to the pan, break it up with a spatula and fry it until it is browned off.  Add 250ml of Mavrodaphne red wine and allow it to soak into the meat.  Add the veg to the pan, again. Next up, add a tin of tomatoes to the pan, and all the spices listed.  I even add a good tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, as it works so well with any meat and pasta dish.

  4. Leave the contents of the pan to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time, so that it does not stick.

  5. Boil a pan of water, add a teaspoon of salt, a cap of oil and all of the pasta.  Boil it until it is softened, but not as completely soft as normal, as it need to cook in the juices yet. Now is a good time to pre-heat your oven at 180 Celsius.

  6. While all that is going on, grab a whisk and a small mixing bowl.  Crack the eggs into the bowl and whisk up.  Now, add the plain yoghurt.  You should be left with a mixture that has the consistency of double cream.  If it is too thick, add a little skimmed milk. You will find this mix makes a lighter and healthier alternative to béchamel sauce.

  7. Take your oven dish, drain the pasta and spread it around the bottom of the dish.  Now, using a ladle or serving spoon, spread the meat sauce over the pasta, covering it completely. Do the same with the yoghurt and egg mix.  Cover the meat completely.

  8. Now the fun bit.  Open your packet of feta cheese and crumble it up in your hands, and spread it evenly over the top of the egg mix.  You can add a pinch of paprika or oregano over the top if you like.

  9. Place the dish in the oven and bake until the cheese on top has gone just nicely golden brown.  Remove from the oven, and allow it to stand for five minutes, then serve with bread.

I hope you enjoy it.

Yammas!

By chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.

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