My recipe omits the pasta and the high-fat egg & milk custard, while focusing on the warm, deep and subtly exotic Mediterranean flavors of the spiced meat.
I further deviated from tradition by adding sauteed mushrooms for an earthy depth, and cooked everything on the stove in a large skillet instead of baking in the oven.
Although lamb and beef are commonly used in Pastitsio and other Greek dishes, I used ground venison (Greg is a hunter and we often use venison instead of beef). Not only is venison leaner and arguably healthier than beef, its stronger, "meatier" flavor takes quite nicely to the cinnamon and other spices in this recipe, much like lamb would.
Approx. 2 lbs ground beef, venison or lamb
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper OR 2 to 3 mini sweet peppers, seeded & chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cremini (baby portobello) mushrooms
1 14.5 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained & chopped*
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
*If you only have regular or stewed canned tomatoes, you can use those instead.
|Simmering in the skillet|
Add ground meat to skillet, raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring regularly, until browned but not yet fully cooked. Pour off excess fat from skillet, return vegetables to skillet, sprinkle with all the seasonings, add tomatoes and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, then cover, reduce heat to medium low and cook until meat is done (about 30 minutes), stirring occasionally. If there is still too much liquid in the pan after 30 minutes, uncover, bring heat back up to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until excess liquid has evaporated. Makes 6 to 8 servings. If carbohydrates are not a concern, you can serve over cooked rice or noodles.
PS: Although this dish is full of zesty flavor, it's not peppery-spicy. If you are one of those people who prefers to spice things up at the table with a few splashes of hot sauce, I recommend Ring of Fire Garden Fresh Chile Sauce (made with ripe tomatoes, serrano chiles, roasted garlic & onion) or Fatalii Fire Hot Sauce (made with rare Fatalii & Caribe chiles in a savory vinegar-garlic base) for this recipe.