Saturday, November 28, 2009


Here in the US we've just survived Thanksgiving, that first blast of the trumpet heralding the holiday season's monstrous regiment. This big family gathering (pictured above, and on pretty good behavior for a change) traditionally happens at my house, and this year I wanted to shake things up a little. So alongside the roasted root vegetables, sage and onion stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc., we had a big pan of pastitsio, a Greek casserole sort of halfway between moussaka and lasagna.

My mother's pastitsio was a childhood favorite I'd been vaguely meaning to veganize for years, but it wasn't until one of my culinary heroes posted about an elaborate Greek dinner that I finally got around to doing it. I started with his recipe as a basic model, but I did make a few significant changes. (NB I was able to procure #2 pastitsio macaroni from our local Greek market, but if you can't lay hands on some, bucatini or even linguine work just as well.)

The one caveat I would offer to those unfamiliar with Greek food is don't be weirded out by the cinnamon and/or nutmeg in this recipe! I realize they may seem incongruous in a savory dish, but once it's all baked and sliced and you're eating a huge slab of it, you'll be saying "Mmmmmm, it tastes so Greek." To which I (standing in the spirit at your elbow) will reply, "I told you so!"(Also please note that I was cooking for a big, holiday dinner, so feel free to halve the recipe accordingly; on the other hand, this dish makes great leftovers, which is always a fine thing.)

The Filling
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 2 tbsp. chopped, fresh parsley
~ 2 tbsp. garlic, minced
2 packages TJ's veggie meatballs, mashed (or Nate’s, Gimme Lean, or other ground meat substitute)
~ 1 bay leaf
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, basil, cinnamon, chili powder
~ ½ tsp. each: nutmeg, oregano
~ 1/2 cup dry red wine
~ 1 28 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, including liquid
~ 3 tbsp. tomato paste
~ Fresh black pepper to taste

~ Preheat the oven to 400.
~ In a large, deep skillet or wok, heat oil, and sauté the onion over medium-high heat until golden, about 5 minutes.
~ Add the parsley and garlic, and cook for a few seconds before adding the mashed “meatballs" and seasonings.
~ Continue cooking about 5 minutes, then add the wine and cook till it evaporates.
~ Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick (you can add a splash of water if necessary).

The Sauce
~ 1 cup raw cashews
~ 3.5 cups warm, unsweetened nondairy milk
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 1 tbsp. vegan margarine (e.g., Earth Balance)
~ 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
~ ½ tsp. salt
~ Black pepper to taste
~ Dash of nutmeg

~ 1/4 cup vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast
~ 1/2 cup cold soy milk, mixed with 2 tsps. cornstarch

~ In a beaker, microwave the milk, the cashews, and the bay leaves until nearly boiling. Allow to soak for at least an hour (the longer the better).
~ Remove the bay leaves, and puree the milk/cashew mixture until completely smooth.
~ In a saucepan, melt the margarine over low heat and whisk in the flour to make a roux.
~ Continue cooking for a few minutes, then gradually add the milk/cashew puree, whisking constantly.
~ Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and parm or nooch; stir thoroughly to combine.
~ Add the cold soy milk/corn starch mixture and whisk thoroughly.
~ Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 5-7 minutes).

~ 1 lb. #2 pasta (bucatini or linguine, if you can't find it), cooked and drained according to package directions, and then mixed with 2-3 tbsp. olive oil to prevent sticking.
~ A little extra paprika and parsley, for garnish.

The Assembly
~ Spread the pasta evenly in the bottom of a large, greased casserole.
~ Cover with the filling, and pour the sauce over the top, smoothing with a spatula.
~ Sprinkle the top with a little extra paprika and parsley to make things pretty.
~ Bake at 400 for 40-45 minutes, until golden and bubbly; if you like, raise the heat to 450 for the last 5 minutes to brown it a bit more.
~ Allow to sit for about 15 minutes before slicing.


  1. I must try this again soon with your improvements! I will look for the Greek pasta.

  2. So excited to see this! I heart pastitsio!

  3. Two omni friends were waxing rhapsodic about pastitsio, and now I get to try it, thanks to you, Elizavegan <3