Author and Educator
If lasagna seems just too ordinary, try James Beard’s version of a Greek pastitsio, a similar dish made with sausage, béchamel sauce, and three types of cheese.
8 to 10 servings
- 1 large or 2 small (1 1/2 pounds) eggplant
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 pound flavorful Italian sausages, such as cotechino or langanica
- 1 pound ziti
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups hot whole milk
- 1-pound container skim-milk ricotta
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 pound mozzarella, sliced
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Cut eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes and sprinkle with salt. Sauté the cubes in olive oil until delicately browned, shaking the pan well and turning them gently with a wooden spatula. Drain on paper towels.
Prick the sausages with a fork, then place in a pot of boiling water. Parboil the sausages for about 5 minutes until they have released some of their fat. Slice them and combine with the eggplant. Set aside.
Cook ziti in 5 quarts of boiling water until just al dente. Do not overcook, as it will bake further. Drain in a colander.
To make the béchamel sauce: Melt butter in a saucepan and whisk in flour, salt, nutmeg, and pepper until smooth. Cook until the mixture bubbles and the flour is thoroughly cooked, about 5 minutes, then very gradually add 3 cups of the hot milk. Stir over medium heat until the sauce is thickened, let simmer for several minutes, and then stir in the fourth cup of milk.
Cover the bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish (also called a lasagna pan) with a layer of béchamel. Add half the ziti, then half the sausage-eggplant mixture, more sauce, 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1/2 container of ricotta, then more sauce, the rest of the ziti and sausage-eggplant mixture, another layer of the sauce, and the rest of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and ricotta. Cover the entire pan with slices of mozzarella.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the pastitsio is bubbling, but do not overbake. It should have a nice, moist quality.