What’s Inside: Paleo Spaghetti Squash Pastitsio, AKA Greek Baked Ziti made with a creamy cauliflower bechamel sauce, perfectly spiced ground meat, and the recipe MVP… spaghetti squash! Make this decadent + comforting AIP-friendly dish.
OPA! What the heck 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.
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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.
Easy, flavorful ingredients for Paleo Greek Baked Ziti:
The ground meat is MEGA flavorful. The cinnamon in here is a very Greek flavor. They love using cinnamon on meat and I fully concur. It’s fabulous. The onions give it a little sweetness, and it all comes together perfectly.
The spaghetti squash is the pasta replacement, and you will not miss it. Try making this in “rings” for a quick way to roast the squash without the sogginess factor!
How to make a Paleo Cheese Sauce?
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 cheese-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.
Are you a cheese-lover who needs to cut back on dairy? Welcome! Be sure to check out this list of my best dairy-free cheese sauces for more variations.
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 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.
2small-medium spaghetti squash(you'll need approx. 4-5 cups cooked)
1Tbspextra-virgin olive oil
Ground Meat Layer
1small yellow onion, chopped
1lb.grass-fed ground beef or lamb
2 tspdried oregano
2tsptomato paste(omit for AIP)
Dairy-free Cauliflower Bechamel Sauce
Nutritional Yeast-Cinnamon Topping
2Tbspnutritional yeast flakes
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.
Spaghetti Squash (“Pasta”) Layer
Pre-heat oven to 400f degrees.
Cut squash into 1-inch "rings" and discard seeds.
Lightly drizzle olive oil on both sides of squash rings and bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for approx. 30 mins, flipping half-way.
When done, remove from oven and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 350f degrees and grease an 8in. baking dish, set aside.
Ground Meat Layer
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.
Dairy-free Cauliflower Bechamel Sauce
In a pot, steam cauliflower florets with boiling water until it’s tender when pricked with a fork (approx. 8 mins.).
Make a "slurry" by combining the arrowroot starch with 1/2 cup of water by mixing it together until it thickens.
Blend all bechamel sauce ingredients including cauliflower, in a blender with HALF of the slurry mixture (use more as needed to loosen), and set sauce aside. You'll want the sauce to be thick enough to coat a spoon but still pourable.
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!
Put it all together!
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.