Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna)

It’s Cook the Books Club time and I was ahead of the game this month!   This month’s pick was Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chefby Gabrielle Hamilton.

Here’s my GoodReads Review:

Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant ChefBlood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

What can I do if I have no actual story to tell? I know! Go for shock value! And that precisely what this book is. A boring memoir built fowl language, crude behavior, and a “look at me, look at me” approach to her accomplishments.

The storytelling is jumbled and confusing as the timeline jumps all over the place incoherently (but after failing college 3 time becomes a writer - brava! (Insert sarcasm here))

Ms. Hamilton’s accomplishments as a restaurant owner are impressive, and yes, she is clearly a hardworking and driven individual, but this book is a total flop.

View all my reviews

Yeah…I wasn’t impressed.  However, there was no shortage for foodie inspiration.  I was more inspired by a food mentioned very early on in the book (like the first chapter – I almost quit reading right then and there, but decided to see this one through).  She mentioned the Pastitso she enjoyed on those rare occasions when the family got to go out to eat.  Having never heard of pastitso, I quickly googled it and found a fascinating Greek version of lasagna.

As much as I didn’t love the book, I did love the pastitso!   It was amazing!  The key to pastitso is the distinct layers and the inclusion of a creamy bechamel sauce.

Of course, there was a catch with the kids.  I made the mistake of telling Hubs that there was cinnamon in the meat layer (cinnamon is a spice that typically only shows up in sweets in our household), then he blabbed about the cinnamon to the kids when they had only taken their first bite and then it was the worst ever!   They just could not get over the cinnamon in the meat.  And Dude was also losing his mind over the bechamel, which he thought was cheese.  Really, this all meant that Hubs and I got to happily enjoy the leftovers (along with Copycat Olive Garden Breadsticks) for lunch for the next few days!

Recipe Notes:
I cut the original recipe in half.  Because of this, in two places (bechamel and pasta layer) you’ll notice that the recipe calls for an improbable 1 ½ eggs.  To remedy this, I cracked a total of 3 eggs into a liquid measuring up, lightly beat them, and poured half the beaten eggs into each portion of the recipe.  When I made this, 1 ½ egg was equal to 1/3 cup beaten egg.

Pastitso (Greek Lasagna)
Adapted slightly from Recipe Girl

Bechamel Sauce
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons (3/8 cup) all purpose flour
1 ½ cups lowfat (2%) milk
½ cup cream
1 ½ eggs (about 1/3 cup, beaten)

Meat Layer
½ tablespoon butter
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound lean ground beef
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt & pepper
2 tablespoon tomato paste

Pasta Layer
½ pound ziti pasta
1 ½ eggs (about 1/3 cup, beaten)

Cheese Layer
8 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese (unless you can find a Greek cheese, such as Kasseri or Kefalotiri)

To make the bechamel sauce, mix together the milk and cream and heat to steaming.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly (it will be very thick, almost like cookie dough).  Slowly whisk in the hot milk mixture, allowing the sauce to thicken and whisk smooth after each addition.  Cook until smooth and thick.  Stir in the salt, remove from heat and cool to room temperature (refrigerate for 10 minutes if necessary).

Meanwhile, prepare the meat.  Heat ½ tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and meat and cook until the onions are tender and meat is browned.  Break up the meat into smaller chunks.  Stir in the garlic, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and mix until combined.  Stir in the water and tomato paste.  Simmer for 5 minutes, then set aside.

To make the pasta, cook ziti in salted water to al dente (according to package directions}.  Drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking.  Once cooled, stir in the beaten eggs and salt.

To assemble, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and liberally grease a deep casserole dish.

Place half the pasta into the casserole dish in an even layer, and top with ¼ of the grated cheese.

Next, spread all of the meat mixture smoothly over the pasta and top with another ¼ of the grated cheese.

Next, add the remaining pasta, ¼ of the grated cheese.

Finally, add the bechamel sauce and top with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes of until the sauce is bubbly and the top is beginning to brown.  Allow the pastitso to rest at room temperature for a minimum of 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

To get nice layers, like the picture, cool to room temperature (or refrigerate) before cutting, and reheat to serve.


  1. I was really torn about the book. On one hand, she did reprehensible things; on the other, she obviously is a talented and successful cook. I will definitely try your pastitio soon! Thanks for sharing, Amy.

  2. I was able to look past the foul language and all of her faults because she wrote of them so honestly and was so transparent in her shortcomings. I didn't hate the book nor did I love it but it did keep my interest and the food was abundant.

  3. I read this after it was first published and remember loving it. I do want to reread it again for CTB...that is IF I can find it in my black hole of a library! I love this dish. I did enjoy her stint on Mind of a Chef, too.

  4. I love pastisio. I hope I don't hate the book :-X

  5. I am glad the recipe made up for the book: great choice. I hope your kids will get around to liking it at some point. Thank you for participating in this edition of Cook the Books :)

  6. The jumping around bothered me as well. I got the purpose on a few occasions; the others I just sped read through. LOVE this dish. Headed to the lake for a weekend adventure and this would be great to make and take!

  7. I too found this book difficult to read but I was determined to finish it. The parts I lived best were about her inlaws in Italy≥. That I could relate to


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