An Italian spin on traditional Greek pastitsio with layers of pasta, meat, cream sauce, and cheese. A rich recipe perfect for company!
Greek pastitsio had been on my to-make list for ages, and I finally made it last October to much fanfare. If you’ve never had it, it’s a very rich dish with layers of pasta mixed with eggs, spiced lamb tomato sauce, béchamel, and then topped off with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. It is utterly amazing.
Not really a problem, but I loved it so much I wanted to recreate it with an Italian spin for our Sunday dinners. It was a massive hit, and even easier to assemble than its Greek cousin. Win-win!
So, what makes this Italian version different from the original Greek one I made last year?
First, we’re using spaghetti instead of penne. Then, in place of a spiced lamb tomato sauce, we’re making an Italian sausage meat sauce that we’re turning pink with a little bit of heavy cream. In lieu of a traditional béchamel sauce, we simply melt together cream cheese and cottage cheese. Finally, we’re topping the whole thing off with lots of fresh mozzarella and basil.
If you think this sounds extremely rich, you’d be correct. It’s definitely not a meal you’d eat every single weeknight, but it’s an absolutely fantastic recipe for a special occasion, Sunday dinner, or company. It is definitely an all-in-one meal – just add a tossed salad and a loaf of crusty Italian bread.
I’m thrilled to have another baked pasta recipe to add to my collection. It’s my favorite kind of comfort food!
An Italian spin on the traditional Greek dish with layers of pasta, meat, a cream sauce, and cheese.
For the Pasta Layer:
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 4 eggs
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup (57 grams) grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup (113 grams) salted butter, cut into small cubes
For the Cream Layer:
- 8 ounces cottage cheese
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
For the Meat Sauce Layer:
- 1 pound ground sweet Italian sausage
- 3 cups (754 ml) pasta sauce (your favorite homemade or store-bought)
- ¼ cup (60 ml) heavy whipping cream
For the Topping:
- 16 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, drained, blotted dry and sliced
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.
- Cook the spaghetti to al dente as directed on package. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, parsley and Parmesan cheese. Drain the spaghetti, and put it back to the hot pot. Add the butter and the egg mixture to the spaghetti, and quickly stir with a wooden spoon until evenly coated and the eggs have formed a sauce. Pour the spaghetti into the prepared baking dish and smooth into an even layer.
- Add the cottage cheese and cream cheese to the pot (off the heat) and stir with a wooden spoon until the cream cheese is melted down and the mixture is completely combined. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the spaghetti layer in the pan, and spread it into an even layer.
- Heat a medium skillet over medium heat and brown the sausage, breaking it up while it cooks, until it’s no longer pink in the middle. Remove from heat, use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to the now-empty pot, and stir in the pasta sauce and heavy cream. Spread the mixture over the cream cheese layer.
- Lay the slices of mozzarella over top of the sausage layer. Bake until the filling the bubbling and the cheese is melted and lightly browned on top, 30 to 45 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Make-Ahead Note: This casserole can be assembled through step #4, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerated overnight. Let sit at room temperature while the oven preheats and then proceed with step #5.