OPA! What the hell is Pastitsio?! Well, it’s a Greek baked pasta dish that consists of a creamy, cheesy bechamel sauce, ground beef or lamb, and of course pasta. It’s like a white baked ziti. When I first started trying authentic Greek food (not talking Diner food, here.) this became one of my absolute favorites. And I haven’t had it in years… once the dairy intolerance got a little too real, I had to part ways. Recently, my husband was eating it and one whiff set me on the road to making my own Paleo and AIP version. No dairy, no cheese, no gluten nor grains… and somehow the consistency, the creamy cheese-like flavor is the closest match I’m going to get. And I’m not complaining anymore because now I have Paleo Spaghetti Squash Pastitsio.
GUYS. When I say I patted myself on the back after tasting this, I’m not joking. And I’ve basically never done that before… no really, I didn’t even know I could bend like that.
The spaghetti squash is the pasta replacement, and you will not miss it. I made this in my Instant Pot so it was even quicker and so I knew it would be al dente, and it turned out just as I planned. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, get one. Okay okay, you can roast them! Just keep an eye out, you do not want a mushy “pasta”, do ya?!
And let’s not beat around the bush here, let’s talk bechamel. Bechamel sauce has to be one of the coziest, dreamiest satisfying sauces around. So I leaned on COCONUT CREAM and CAULIFLOWER to get the job done. With a few other odds and ends… this sauce was thick enough to coat the wooden spoon I used to stir it with, filled my kitchen with a cheesy-like aroma and the color was spot on too. There’s no going back now, I can’t un-taste the sauce, folks. I will likely be making this Cauliflower Bechamel sauce on the regs.
These 3 components gel so well together, I was so stoked at the turnout. When I cut into the bubbly golden brown top I had deja vu, one taste of it and I was taking a trip down memory lane. Dates in Greek Tavernas in Astoria with my hubby when we were just two crazy kids in love… ah yessss – that’s the stuff!
If you’ve ever tried pastitsio, your jaw just might drop at this taste- & look-a-like. If you haven’t, I’m going to wager you’ve at least had a bechamel sauce and at least have had a baked ziti, so it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine the magic that Pastitsio really is. And you will love this… make this your next Sunday dinner project and tell me all about it.
IT’S POLI OREO! (Very Good) ENJOY MY LOVELIES! XO
This dreamy favorite is getting a dairy-, gluten-, grain-free makeover. Spaghetti squash makes for a low carb "pasta" dish and the cauliflower bechamel just might fool you!! (AIP-friendly)
- 2 small-medium spaghetti squash (you'll need approx. 4-5 cups cooked
- 2 cups water
- 2 Tbsp ghee or lard (lard for AIP)
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 8 oz. organic ground beef or lamb
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp ceylon cinnamon
- 2 tsp tomato paste (omit for AIP)
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cups cauliflower steamed
- 1 cup coconut cream*
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast**
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 Tbsp arrowroot starch/flour
- 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
- 1-2 tsp ceylon cinnamon
- 1 pinch sea salt
Prep an 8 in. baking dish (glass, ceramic or enamel), whatever you'd use for a casserole for example. Grease it lightly with coconut oil and set aside. Pre-heat oven to 350f degrees.
Start with the spaghetti squash. Cut the squash carefully, width-wise and scoop out the seeds.
If using an Instant Pot, place the steamer grate inside the pot and pour in 1 cup of water. Add 1 squash at a time, close the lid and make sure the valve is closed on top. Set to "MANUAL" for 7 minutes, it will take a few minutes to heat up and then you'll see the countdown. Once done, you can quick release by carefully with an oven mitt, turning the top valve to release. Repeat for a 2nd squash unless you have a very large one that will give you around 4-5 cups of cooked squash.
If not using an Instant Pot, place all of the squash on a baking sheet at 375f degrees for approx. 30-35 minutes facing up. You want cooked, but al dente squash, be careful to not over-cook.
When done, set aside and let dry/cool (you don't need to fork out the squash yet).
Chop onions small and set aside. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the ghee/lard, let it melt. Once melted, toss the onions in the pan and using a wooden spoon, stir around, let cook for 3-5 minutes until translucent and soft.
Add ground meat and break up with your wooden spoon into small pieces, stirring with the onions. Sprinkle your seasonings over top and continue mixing. If using tomato paste, add in. Lastly, add the minced garlic so it doesn't burn.
Cook meat until the juices that release start to evaporate and no red meat remains. Taste the meat and season to your liking! When done, set aside.
In a pot, steam cauliflower florets with boiling water until it's tender when pricked with a fork (approx. 8 mins.).
Meanwhile, stir coconut CREAM (not milk) to make sure it hasn't separated from water. Add it to a saucepan over low heat. Next, add the nutritional yeast and stir around with a wooden spoon.
While that cooks, take 1/2 cup of water and add arrowroot flour to it. Stir it around to create a slurry. It will thicken slightly in the cup, make sure it's stirred well with no clumps at the bottom. Once that's mixed well, pour HALF into the pot of coconut cream. Continue to stir the mixture with your wooden spoon. Save the other half in case you need it (depending on how large your baking dish is, you might want more liquid).
Bring the sauce to a simmer, just before boiling you should notice the sauce will coat your wooden spoon and is nice and thick. Turn heat off at this point.
When cauliflower is ready, add it to a high-speed blender with lemon juice and salt. Pour the cream sauce over it and blend on high until everything is mixed well and you have a cream sauce with no cauliflower bits. Taste and add salt as desired, set aside.
Make a quick topping to set aside: mix 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast with 1-2 tsp of cinnamon, and a pinch of sea salt in a bowl. Keep for the very end!
To your greased baking dish, add two-thirds of your spaghetti squash to the bottom and pack it in a single layer. I patted mine down with a fork to make sure there were no empty pockets.
Then, add all of your ground meat on top of that, also packing it in well with a fork in a single layer.
Now, pour two-thirds of your bechamel sauce over the meat. With your wooden spoon, lightly push the sauce to cover the meat fully. If at this point you feel more liquid will be needed, add that to the remaining sauce in the blender and blend it on high for 30 seconds. If two-thirds of the sauce covered the meat well and you have one-third left, you're in good shape and don't need the remaining liquid.
Now, with your hands, pull apart some of the squash to the width of your baking dish. Place the squash "in stripes" so you are controlling the amount of squash and can make sure it's even but not sinking into the sauce. Make sure you've covered it in a single layer.
Lastly, add the remaining bechamel sauce over top, lightly pushing with your wooden spoon again to cover the squash. And add your nutritional yeast-cinnamon topping lightly and evenly over the whole dish.
Bake for 40 minutes until the top is golden-brown and bubbling on the edges. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting into it. Enjoy! This will keep well in the fridge for a week.
Use #foodbymars to tag your FBM inspired creations! I’d love to see!