Old-fashioned Pasticcio from Syros (Meat and Macaroni Pie)

From my book The Foods of the Greek Islands.

Adapted from a 19c. recipe this pasticcio is enclosed in puff pastry and is quite different from the modern dish that is topped with a thick béchamel crust. Read HERE more about the history and variations of the dish.

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Makes 8 servings

Filling 

1             tablespoon olive oil or unsalted butter

1/4         pound bacon, diced

1 1/2     cups coarsely chopped onions

1 1/2     pounds ground lean veal or beef

2–3        tablespoons bone marrow (optional; see Note)

1             teaspoon Maras or Aleppo pepper, or pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Salt

1/2         cup sweet red wine, such as Mavrodaphne or sweet Marsala

1             cup beef stock or Chicken Stock, or more if needed

2             cinnamon sticks

15          pitted prunes, coarsely chopped

2             tablespoons unsalted butter

1             pound ziti

1 1/2     cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, graviera or grana cheese

1             cup grated kefalotyri or pecorino Romano cheese

1             cup whole milk, or more if needed

1             teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2     17 1/4-ounce packages (3 sheets) frozen puff pastry, thawed according to the package instructions

About 3 tablespoons milk

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Make the filling: In a large, deep lidded skillet, heat the oil or butter and sauté the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Add the onions to the skillet and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes.

Add the veal or beef in the skillet and sauté, stirring, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add the bone marrow (if using), pepper or pepper flakes and salt to taste and sauté for 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer for 30 seconds. Reduce the heat to low, add the stock and cinnamon sticks, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. The mixture should still be moist. Remove from the heat, discard the cinnamon sticks and stir in the prunes and the butter.

Meanwhile, cook the ziti in a large pot of boiling salted water until just slightly undercooked (2 minutes less than directed on the package). Drain.

Transfer the ziti to a large bowl and stir in the meat mixture, cheeses, milk, nutmeg and pepper to taste. Taste and adjust the seasonings. The mixture should be moist; if it is too dry, add a little more milk or stock.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200 C).

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Assembly: Oil or butter a 13-x-9-inch baking dish, or an equivalent oval or round pan.

Divide the puff pastry into 3 portions. Cover 1 piece with plastic wrap. Briefly knead the other 2 pieces together, then roll out on a lightly floured surface. Line the dish with the puff pastry, trimming it to a 1-inch overhang; reserve the trimmings.

Add the filling and smooth it with a spatula. Roll the remaining puff pastry and stretch it to cover the pasticcio. Cut off some of the overhanging bottom pastry; reserve the scraps. Fold the overhanging bottom pastry over the top crust and pinch the edges together to seal, crimping them to make a neat cord around the edge of the pie. Flatten the cord with the tines of a fork to prevent it from sticking up, or it will burn during baking.

Roll the remaining puff-pastry trimmings and cut ribbons. Brush the pie generously with the milk, decorate with the pastry ribbons and brush again with the milk.

Bake for 15 minutes, sprinkling the top of the pie 8 to 10 times with water. Bake for 10 minutes more, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (180C) and bake for 30 minutes more, or until golden brown. Check often, and if the pastry puffs up, prick it in several places with a knife. If the top browns too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Turn off the oven, but leave the pie in the oven for 10 minutes more. Let the pie cool for 15 minutes on a rack, then cut to serve.

NOTE:

For the bone marrow, buy one or two 4-to-5-inch-long marrow bones, place it in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the marrow is firm. Drain, then scoop the marrow out of the bone with an iced-tea spoon.

 

 

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