Pastisio/Pasticcio

This dish, pronounced “pastitzo” to the Greeks and “pastichio” to the Italians is something my yia yia (Greek grandmother) made often when I was a child and I loved it. Of course, her version was made with a meaty bolognese and a Greek style béchamel that has an egg whipped into it. You might have tried that type of white sauce before on moussaka.

At the age of 12 when I was trying to become vegetarian, this dish was one of my weaknesses and much to my yia yia’s dismay, I eventually started scraping out the layer of bolognese and just eating the pasta and béchamel. Thankfully, with a bit of imagination and skill, I can recreate a vegan version of this childhood memory in my very own kitchen!

Traditionally, yia yia always used tubular pasta but you could use any pasta you like – including gluten free.

Pasticcio 3
Serves 8-10, depending on the shape of your baking dish. Mine divides into 9 comfortably.

400g Dry Pasta of your choice, gluten free if required
4 C Lentil Bolognese
2 Batches Cashew Béchamel
Seedy Seasoning (optional)

    • Cook & drain the pasta. Spread it evenly across the bottom of a baking dish.

Pasticcio 1

    • Spread the lentil bolognese sauce evenly across the top of the pasta.

Pasticcio 2

  • Spread the cashew béchamel evenly across the top of the lentil bolognese, sprinkle with seedy seasoning & bake @ 180C for half an hour to heat through or 1 hour to brown on top.

Lentil Bolognese

I haven’t really divulged or discussed my heritage on this blog… What better time to tell you than now! One of my parents is Italian and the other is Greek – so as you can imagine, I was surrounded by some pretty amazing food while growing up. In addition, I was brought up in a culturally diverse suburb of Melbourne where being caucasian made you the minority – so I learned to accept and embrace different races and cultures from a very young age. I can’t thank my parents enough for bringing me up in such an environment and I have no doubt that this has heavily influenced my curiosity with international cuisine.

Although I was born and raised in Australia, because of my upbringing, I sometimes struggle with understanding Australian slang and colloquialisms and am also both baffled and humoured by Australian home style cooking. You know what I’m talking about – desserts using Kellog’s cereal or Arnott’s biscuits as the main ingredient; meals that are flavoured with tinned soup or sachets of dried soup… And of course Vegemite, which will always confuse and bewilder me. I may have had a chance with Vegemite once upon a time, however my sister convinced me that it tasted like Nutella so I shoved a heaping tablespoon of it in my mouth. To this day, the smell of Vegemite makes me want revenge.

I also have some very amusing food quirks and opinions that I don’t even realise are odd until someone laughs at me for voicing them. For example – we always used flat leaf parsley in our house and mum referred to the curly variety as “Aussie parsley”, while insisting that it had no flavour; kalamata were the only type of olive I’d eaten until I was in my twenties.. and of course: tomatoes are rubbish unless they’re home grown.

I’m sure as this blog develops, you’ll read more bits and pieces about what led me here – but for now, a recipe!

Lentil Bolognese
Yields 8.5 cups and is suitable for freezing.

1-2 TBSP EV Olive Oil
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed or finely diced
1 Brown Onion, diced
2 C Diced Eggplant OR Button Mushrooms
2/3 C Red Capsicum, diced
2/3 C Carrot, diced
2/3 C Celery, diced
1 C Dried Green or Brown Lentils (2.5 C cooked)
1/3 C Red Lentils
2 C Vegetable Stock
140g/4.5 TBSP Tomato Paste (no added salt)
1.5 C Tomato Puree
1.5 C Diced Tomatoes (400g tin)
1/4 C Red Wine
1/4 t Raw Sugar (optional)
4 Bay Leaves
1 t Dried Oregano
1/4 C Fresh Basil, chffonade or torn
1/2 C Fresh Parsley, chopped
S+P

    • Bring 1L (4 cups) of water to the boil. Add the dried green or brown lentils and cook with lid on for 35-40 minutes on low heat. Soak your red lentils in about a cup of cold water.

Bolognese Chopped Ingredients

    • Meanwhile, dice up all your veggies and prepare your other ingredients. By the time you’ve done this, your lentils should be cooked – drain and set aside. Also drain the red lentils that have been soaking in cold water.

Bolognese Other Ingredients

    • Add oil to a deep sauté pan on medium-high heat. Cook onion for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic and all other fresh veggies, stirring every couple of minutes until the veggies are tender but not soggy. The veggies should start releasing their own juices; constant stirring will release too much heat and slow this process.

Bolognese Saute

  • Add all the lentils, diced tomato, tomato paste & puree, oregano, bay leaves and stock. Simmer on low heat with lid ON for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the lid, add the sugar (if using) and leave to cook on low heat for a further 10 minutes. This will reduce and concentrate your sauce.
  • Stir in the fresh basil & parsley with some salt & pepper (if using), then serve on pasta of your choice.

Chick(pea) & Pumpkin Cacciatore

This is a sweet, comforting dish – and one that has come from my mission to get through my supply of free, organic pumpkins without resorting to pumpkin soup!

Chickpea Pumpkin Cacciatore
Serves 6

Sauce:
1 Brown Onion, roughly chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, smashed
1 Red Capsicum (Bell Pepper), roughly chopped
1/4 Yellow Capsicum, roughly chopped
3 Truss Tomatoes, cut into eighths
4 TBSP Tomato Paste (no added salt)
1 TBSP Raw Sugar
1 Cup Water

Filling:
700g Jap Pumpkin
2 Red Capsicums
1.5 Cups Cooked Chickpeas (1x 400g tin)
1 Cup Stock (I used Massel “chicken” stock which is vegan & GF)
1/2 tsp Dried Basil

Fresh parsley to serve & salt to taste.

  • Cube pumpkin into bite sized pieces and roast with a light spray of oil at 180C for 25 minutes.
  • To make the sauce, first sauté the onion on medium heat. When it starts to brown a little, add the garlic.
  • Stir for a minute, then add the tomatoes & capsicums. Switch heat to high and cook until the capsicums are tender.
  • Add the tomato paste, raw sugar & water. Stir to combine, then let cool before blending.
  • When your pumpkin has finished roasting and your sauce is blended, you’re ready to rock – err, I mean assemble. Roughly chop the remaining two capsicums into bite sized pieces (similar size to the pumpkin) and sauté until tender. Add the chickpeas and stir for a minute or two.
  • Finally, add the sauce, stock & dried basil, then fold the pumpkin in, being careful not to mash it – you want it to hold its cubed shape. Heat through, add salt and serve.

The cacciatore in the photo was served with gluten free pasta but you could serve this with regular pasta, rice, mashed potato or whatever floats your boat. It’s also good on its own!

Also, don’t be shy with the salt – it really brings out the flavours in this.