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Pastitsio and Greek Yogurt

post #1 of 27
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I recently made a pastitsio recipe that called for Greek yogurt as part of the custard. Greek yogurt is not always the easiest thing to find around here (though it is available) so I substituted Danon whole milk yogurt, and things turned out just fine, quite tasty, in fact.

Of course, I got to thinking whether it would have been even better if I had used the genuine article and, whilst I was giving it thought, what are the differences between Mr. Danon's product and the Greek variety?

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post #2 of 27
Less whey mostly. It's traditionally drained better meaning you're getting more milk solids. It should also have less or hopefully no additives, (gums stabilizers).
And I think it gets more fermentation for a tangier product.
post #3 of 27
I've made pastitzo for many years and have not seen a recipe that called for yogurt, just bechamel sauce. I learned from two generations of Greek home cooks. I guess they represented one region of Greece, though (Sparta). That could be a factor....
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post #4 of 27
Regarding Greek yogurt: it generally has a different mix of cultures than Dannon, and the result is a different flavor.
post #5 of 27
Doesn't Dannon contain a fair amount of sugar?

scb
post #6 of 27
Not if you're buying plain yogurt as opposed to vanilla yogurt.
post #7 of 27
Shel, the sugar in plain Dannon is only the natural lactose (milk sugar). When I was almost carb-phobic, I wouldn't even eat that. Now that I'm watching blood sugar, I count it and enjoy it.

Still, on the topic: I'm curious to know if using yogurt in pastitzo is regional, a family preference, a new development, an old one I hadn't heard of, or what??

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post #8 of 27

Yogurt

Dannon seems to me more runny. Greek Yogurt is more I would say more solid and definatley more tangy. I personally really like Greek Yogurt.
post #9 of 27
Different countries different culture? :D
post #10 of 27
I'm Greek and I've met lots of greeks from all different regions. I've never heard of using yogurt in a pastitsio before. Can you share the recipe please?

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post #11 of 27
Thread Starter 

Pastitsio Recipe

Glad to share the recipe.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb lean ground lamb
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups lamb stock (or substitute chicken stock)
2 large tomatoes, sliced
4 oz shaped pasta, such as elbows or fusilli, cooked al dente and drained
1 lb Greek yogurt
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C). Heat oil in large frypan over medium high heat; add lamb and saute until the color is lost, breaking up the lamb with a spoon. Add the onion and garlic and saute until onion is tender, but not browned. Stir in tomato paste and flour, and cook for one minute, stirring. Stir in the stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat, stirring ocassionally. Place the meat mixture in an oven proof dish, spreading evenly. Layer the sliced tomatoes over the lamb. Mix together yogurt and eggs; fold in pasta. Spread mixture over tomatoes. Bake for one hour or until top is nicely browned. Let cool slightly before serving.

After "The Pasta Cookbook", Jeni Wright, Hermes House
post #12 of 27
You can come close to the consistency - if not the flavor - of Greek yogurt by just draining it for several hours. I just put a paper towel in a strainer, add the yogurt, and set over a bowl for 3-4 hours or put in the fridge overnight.

Mike
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post #13 of 27
Thanks for posting the recipe. This is not pastitsio. The word in Italian basically means "a big mess" and it usually describes pasta mixed with a lot of ingredients, any you may have left over.

In Greece however pastitsio is a very orderly dish made up of three basic layers, always in the same order:

1. A layer of noodles on the bottom. They are a specific thick thick hollow spaghetti labeled No. 2 in size I believe.

2. A layer of meat ragu on top of the noodles, made with tomatos, onions, ground beef (or ground lamb, but it's a little out of fashion nowadays to make it with lamb). Garlic is not usually used in the sauce.

3. Cover with a layer of real bechamel and bake.

The personal variations come in your recipes for each layer. For example, traditionally it's baked as is, but I like to add a sprinkling of parmesan and breadcrumbs on top. The noodles are usually boiled al dente and then added to the bottom of your pan, but I like to toss either with a little bit of the ragu, OR some butter, OR an egg white for fluffiness and not sticking together.

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post #14 of 27

delicious...

"Real" Pastitsio or not, I appreciated being able to find a recipe for it that uses yogurt. I made it for dinner, and we both thought it was delicious. Thanks for that!
post #15 of 27
regular grocery stores here in the midwest carry several brands of Greek yogurt....but if you don't have access to it, put plain yogurt in a cheesecloth or papertowel lined fine sieve and let drain for several hours or over night....you'll be amazed at how much whey drains off.

I've had pastitso with bechemel and also with yogurt egg.....yogurt egg is really a lighter touch....still would opt for lamb any day of the week....welll and garlic too.
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post #16 of 27
What about cinnamon? The recipes I've tried for Pastitsio have had cinnamon and I wasn't pleased. The flavor just didn't work me.
post #17 of 27
too heavy handed?....I've had it with cinnamon and was neutral on it. Nutmeg too. Probably would not add either if making for myself.
I would purchase real tubes....our Italian groceries carry them.
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post #18 of 27
I've noticed in other Mediterranean dishes that i have a hard time with cinnamon as a savory seasoning. Tagines for example with all the sweet dried fruit and cinnamon just becomes too sweet with cinnamon.

I can do it in the Indian dishes and a few other Asian dishes. Not exactly sure why as those can be sweet too.
post #19 of 27
I'm iffy on the cinammon too. I add it to the ragu when I make moussaka but barely a hint of it. In pasticcio it's not common. Nutmeg however is very common in bechamel sauce. I'm a big fan of nutmeg.

If one were to make bechamel with yogurt wouldn't it be quite tart? Do you add sugar to compensate for the tartness?

Rules were meant to be broken I guess. If you want a heavy dish use lamb. If you want a light dish use ground turkey. As long as you like it tradition be darned. My Mom makes a killer bechamel with 1% milk and we still love her.

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post #20 of 27
You can't really make a bechamel with yogurt, sour cream, or anything else clabbered -- or, at least not in my experience. They break. Besides, you don't need their structure as you're using a roux to create a stronger one. You could, I suppose, sour things up with some vinegar during the sauce making process.

More, I'm afraid I'm enough of a culinary and linguistic absolutist to side with koukouvagia on the issue of drawing a line as to what is and isn't pastisio. I'm not exactly sure where the line lays exactly, but whatever the yogurt melange is, it isn't pastisio.

Doesn't mean it doesn't taste good, though. As Chekhov famously observed, De gustibus aut bene, aut nihil.

BDL
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post #21 of 27
My Arab friends use yogurt to cut the tahini because its cheaper. They hang the yogurt in a cheesecloth bag overnight at room temperature until it turns into yogurt cheese.

I've never heard of using yogurt in pastistio either, just bechamel. Its layered much the same way as mousaka, which frankly, given the choice I would always go the way of mousaka.

doc
post #22 of 27
the yogurt is not used to make bechemel...it's used with eggs as a substitute or variance from bechemel.

the yogurt (Fage, Emi etc) I've been eating recently has little to no sour notes in it. Bulgarian yogurt, now that can have a tart kick. I actually prefer a high acid note with plain yogurt.
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post #23 of 27
I never made it with Yogurt of any kind, just a Bechamel, and Feta. I have tried to bring my cost down by whipping some cream cheese in it and less feta with heavy cream being an option with the bechamel.
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post #24 of 27
I actually made it with lamb because I had it on hand...I would like to try it with ground beef, too. Yes, the egg-yogurt was nice and light, tangy. Not that I don't love bechamel sauce!
post #25 of 27
I've never heard of feta in a pastitsio, that's interesting.

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post #26 of 27
with yogurt egg goo on top I use a dry shredded cheese....parm or asiago or whatever makes sense that's in the fridge.
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post #27 of 27
mmmm....should have done that too. Darn! I had some in the fridge. Oh well. Next time :>)
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