Easy Greek Skillet Pastitsio is a simplified version of our favorite Greek casserole. Aldente pasta shells are are tossed with a tomato and cinnamon-infused beef sauce, layered with an easy cheesy béchamel sauce, and baked until golden brown and bubbly.  The recipe makes a generous amount, and the leftovers are even better the next day!

Easy skillet meals are the perfect way to feed a crowd, check out these other awesome skillet dinners we love like this 5-Ingredient Gnocchi with Sausage and Peas, this 5-Ingredient Chicken Piccata, and this Cheesy Lemon Chicken with Bruschetta Topping.

Easy Greek Skillet Pastitsio

When cinnamon-laced beef meets creamy béchamel sauce, you have a winning combination that’s pretty much unmatched by any other food duo. In my opinion at least. 

That duo is the classic flavor profile that made me a die-hard lover of the Greek casserole Pastitsio early in my childhood. Back in the day, my Mom and I would make the intensely laborious version from an old Greek recipe book my Grandmother acquired because of my Grandfather’s Greek heritage.  We would only make the recipe, on average, once a year, because, as written, there’s about 25 steps, but every time the finished product came out of the oven, and I devoured an ungodly portion, I wondered what we could change to make it something we could make more often. 

Classic Greek Pastitsio

If you’re not familiar with pastitsio, at its simplest explanation, it’s basically a Greek version of lasagna. Classically you use a long-shaped macaroni pasta, but I oftentimes switched it out for penne. The pasta is tossed with lots of cheese, and then layered alternatively with the aforementioned cinnamon beef sauce and a thick béchamel sauce laced with eggs.  Each layer is covered in grated Kefalotyri cheese (similar to Romano or parmesan) and it’s then baked about an hour until it’s golden brown and set. 

It only took me 20+ years to come up with a more simplified version, but here it is. 

My version, condenses a few of the steps down, although you do still have to cook the pasta, beef and béchamel separately. Instead of dirtying up well over four dishes, I cook the beef and béchamel in the same oven-proof pan the whole dish bakes in. I also decrease the cooking time of the beef sauce, because simmering it for a whole hour, is just unnecessary. Instead of baking the casserole for an hour, it only bakes about 30 minutes, and then it’s finished off under the broiler to crisp up the edges of the pasta (my favorite part!) and brown the top of the béchamel which translates into the awesome nutty flavor I adore. 

How to make Easy Greek Skillet Pastitsio

  • Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season with salt. It should taste as salty as sea water. 
  • Heat a large oven-proof skillet to a medium heat. Add butter. Once butter melts, whisk in flour. Slowly whisk in milk and salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes. 
  • Pour sauce into a medium bowl and add 1/4 cup cheese and egg yolks. Whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside. Wipe pan clean.
  • Add lean ground beef and onion to the same skillet. Turn the heat on medium and cook until onion are soft and beef is cooked through. Make sure to break the meat up with a wooden spoon. 
  • Add tomato paste, water, cinnamon, sugar, and salt. Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  • When the sauce has been simmering for about five minutes. Add the shells to the water. Cook until just under aldente. Drain into a colander. Add the pasta back to the large pot and add the meat sauce along with 3/4 cup of the béchamel sauce. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. 
  • Add half of the pasta back to the oven-proof skillet. Pour half of the remaining béchamel sauce on top along with remaining cheese. Spread the rest of the pasta and beef over the béchamel and then covered with remaining béchamel. 
  • Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn on the broiler until top is brown and the pasta noodles are starting to get crispy on the edges. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with extra grated cheese. 

Do I have to use large shells? 

No, but do LOVE the large shells with this, because the big pockets are perfect vessels for the sauce to nestle down in. If you wanted to change it up, medium shells, campanelle, orecchiette, or penne would also work well.

Do I need to use lean ground beef? 

Because there is so much flavor happening here, it’s really not necessary to use a fattier ground beef mix. Whatever you can find that’s super lean will work. You could also use ground lamb, turkey. or chicken. 

Do I really need to use cinnamon in this recipe? 

YES. YES. YES. Cinnamon is what makes this recipe. It gives it a unique flavor that is warm, slightly sweet, and completely intoxicating. Don’t skip it. 

Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success

  • Be sure to cook your pasta a minute or so under aldente. It will continue cooking while you mix the sauce, and then again in the oven. 
  • Check for seasoning at each step, it’s the key to have a well-balanced dish. 
  • Again, you can sub out ground lamb or a ground beef that has a higher fat ratio, but it won’t really add to the flavor of the dish. 
  • To avoid a lumpy béchamel sauce. Turn the heat completely off before SLOWLY adding the milk. Constantly whisk the mixture to keep it smooth. 
  • You can swap our 2% milk or skim milk for the whole milk, just be aware that it will decrease the richness of the dish. 
  • You may swap out your favorite pasta shape for large shells, just try to avoid using anything longer such as spaghetti or fettuccine. 

What to serve with Easy Greek Skillet Pastitsio

Easy Greek Skillet Pastitsio

Easy Greek Skillet Pastitsio

Yield: 6-8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

asy Greek Skillet Pastitsio is a simplified version of our favorite Greek casserole. Aldente pasta shells are are tossed with a tomato and cinnamon-infused beef sauce, layered with an easy cheesy béchamel sauce, and baked until golden brown and bubbly. The recipe makes a generous amount, and the leftovers are even better the next day!

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. coarse kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lb 90% lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. white sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 pound large shells

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season with salt. It should taste as salty as sea water. 
  2. Heat a large oven-proof skillet to a medium heat. Add butter. Once butter melts, whisk in flour. Slowly whisk in milk and 1/4 tsp salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes. 
  3. Pour sauce into a medium bowl and add 1/4 cup cheese and egg and egg yolk. Whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside. Wipe pan clean.
  4. Add lean ground beef and onion to the same skillet. Season with a little bit of salt. Turn the heat on medium and cook until onions are soft and beef is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Make sure to break the meat up with a wooden spoon. 
  5. Add tomato paste, cinnamon, sugar, water and 3/4 tsp. salt. Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  6. When the sauce has been simmering for about five minutes. Add the shells to the water. Cook until just under aldente. Drain into a colander. Add the pasta back to the large pot and add the meat sauce along with 3/4 cup of the reserved béchamel sauce. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Add half of the pasta back to the oven-proof skillet. Pour half of the remaining béchamel sauce on top along with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Spread the rest of the pasta and beef over the béchamel and then cover with remaining béchamel. 
  8. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn on the broiler until top is brown and the pasta noodles are starting to get crispy on the edges. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with extra grated cheese. 
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 477 Total Fat: 24g Saturated Fat: 12g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 9g Cholesterol: 168mg Sodium: 909mg Carbohydrates: 30g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 7g Protein: 33g
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