RECIPE: Leah Itsines’ Yiayia’s pastitso

This is one of our favourite family recipes, which Yiayia makes on special occasions. For a vegetarian dish, omit the beef mince and add some extra vegetables, such as zucchini (courgette) or eggplant (aubergine).


Prep time 20 minutes
Cooking time 2 hours
Serves 6

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  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for cooking
  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste (concentrated purée)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 400g tin crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup beef stock, as needed
  • 250g penne pasta
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese


  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 3 cups warm milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg


  1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium–high heat. Add beef and cook until browned and the excess liquid has evaporated. Add wine, onion, garlic, oregano, rosemary, cloves and allspice and cook for 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and crushed tomatoes. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, adding the stock if the mixture is drying out. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. While meat is cooking, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, then transfer to a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Set aside to cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200C. Brush a large ovenproof dish with oil.
  4. To make the béchamel sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir for 2 minutes, then remove pan from the heat. Slowly add milk, stirring until the mixture is smooth and thick. Cover and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in eggs, parmesan and nutmeg.
  5. Tip pasta into the oiled dish and sprinkle with the parmesan. Pour meat sauce over the top, followed by the béchamel. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
This recipe has been provided by Leah Itsines from her new book, Good Food Made Simple: Healthy recipes to eat well and feel incredible. Good Food Made Simple is your gateway to getting comfortable in the kitchen, being kind to your body and having some fun. Food wasn’t meant to be hard.
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By Guest Contributor

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