Baked Pasta with Bechamel Topping

Baked Pasta with Bechamel Topping

This Baked Pasta with Bechamel Topping is a very common casserole found in the Greek cuisine and there are just as many versions of this recipe as there are casseroles in the U.S. Ground round can be substituted for the ground lamb if you choose. This is so simple and is my go-to recipe when company is coming!

Ingredients

for the pasta:
1 pound penne pasta, cook in a large pot of salted water until al dente, drain and put back in the pot

for the meat layer:
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
6 large garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds ground lamb or lean ground round
1½ cups water
½ cup sherry cooking wine
1 (16-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne

for the parmesan cheese sauce:
½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups 2% milk
¾ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

make the meat layer:
In a large nonstick saucepan over medium heat, add oil; when hot, add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Stir in the ground lamb and cook until crumbly and no longer pink; drain fat and discard. Pour in the water, wine and tomato sauce. Season with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper and cayenne. Cover and simmer stirring occasionally until thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

make the parmesan cheese sauce:
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat; whisk in flour. Pour in the milk, whisking until smooth. Whisk until the mixture is thick and bubbly and coats the back of a spoon. Stir in salt, nutmeg, cayenne and parmesan cheese.

Add the lamb mixture to the cooked pasta and spread it into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the top of the pasta, smoothing to level. Sprinkle with nutmeg if desired. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Make ahead:
This dish becomes even more flavorful each time it’s reheated, making it the perfect make a day ahead of time dish. It can be assembled and placed in freezer. If frozen: Bring dish to room temperature and bake unthawed for 1 1/2 hours.

serves 6 to 8

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