Gluten Free Pastitso Recipe
I must admit, I have trepidation when it comes to potluck parties. As a guest and a person on a gluten free diet, I am concerned about how much the food I can safely eat. As a hostess and a person who may possibly have a few control issues, I just sort of melt down at the thought of having most of the food and presentation out of my control.
Having said that, some of my most successful parties have been potluck. I once hosted a Christmas Eve party where everyone brought something traditional from their family and another one for a going away party for a friend where everyone brought the dish they made that my friend most enjoyed. Both of these parties celebrated the attendees as much as the occasion and the guest of honor. The guests were able to try a wide variety of food, learn new recipes and contribute to the party – people really do enjoy being able to contribute! For my part, once I got over the initial fears of not being able to control every aspect of every detail, I was really able to enjoy the parties, as I wasn’t shackled to the stove for days.
Of course being gluten free poses its own problems when it comes to potluck – we can never be 100 percent sure of the safety of the food even if the dish is presumably gluten free. We have no idea if the salad was accidentally cross contaminated with a few bread crumbs.
However, there is a definite positive side to potlucks. I asked my Facebook readers what was the most difficult for them on their gluten free diet – eat at home, eat at other people’s homes or eat at restaurants. The overwhelming majority was eating in other people’s homes. When one attends a potluck you are ensured of having at least one dish to eat – the one you brought! I always offer to bring a main dish to a potluck and then I bring a dessert as well. I come off looking like a super generous guest and I get to eat dinner AND dessert!
I do the same when I host a potluck – provide a main dish and dessert. I also have on hand gluten free crackers. To ensure no cross contamination of the food while serving, I either ask the guest to bring serving utensils for their dish or I make sure I have plenty on hand so each dish has its own utensil. If possible I group the dishes that are absolutely gluten free together and a little separate from the rest.
The best potluck dishes are ones that can be made ahead of time, feed a crowd without being too expensive, transport easily, and can be re-heated if need be.
I recently attended a potluck where the theme was Greek food. The party was on a busy weekend so prep time was short and we had a LOT of people to feed. I decided to make gluten free Pastitso – a Greek form of lasagna. With a little multi-tasking and a quick cooking gluten-free pasta; Vegetable Rotini from Maplegrove Foods, I had the main prep for the dish done in about 45 minutes. The dish bakes for about 35 minutes. I baked it ahead, refrigerated it and then reheated it for a few minutes at the party. If re-heating isn’t an option, it holds its heat well and even tastes great at room temperature.
You can even make the Pastitso up to the point of adding the béchamel topping and freeze it. Just defrost, whip up the béchamel and bake later. I made two large batches of this recipe for less than $50.00! It fed a LOT of people and even the gluten-eaters were raving about it!
Since the baking dishes I used for my party are larger than the average lasagna pan (they are 9 ½- by 14-inch deep-dish lasagna pans) I doubled the amount of béchamel for each dish so that the entire top was covered. If you are using a standard lasagna dish (9- by 13-inches) no need to double it.
Typically Pastitso calls for Kefalotiri Cheese which is a hard, salty yellow Greek cheese made from sheep’s milk. If you can’t find it, substitute Parmesan or a mixture of Parmesan, Romano and Pecorino (they sell this pre-packaged in the grocery store usually called Three Cheese Italian Blend).
I hope this helps alleviate any trepidation you may feel when it comes to pot lucks!
Gluten Free Pastitso Recipe
Gluten-free nonstick cooking spray
1 pound gluten free Rotini pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil – use divided
1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef or lamb
½ cup red wine
¼ cup tomato paste
1 – 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cinnamon stick
1 lemon, quartered
2 bay leaves
2 ½ cups Kefalotiri cheese (or Parmesan), grated – use divided
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons gluten free flour blend
2 ½ cups milk
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 large egg yolks
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with gluten-free nonstick cooking spray.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta for 6 minutes or until al dente. Drain, rinse with hot water, toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and set aside.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the chopped onions and cook until soft translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the ground beef and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook until it has mostly evaporated. Add the tomato sauce, stir into the mixture and cook for about 30 seconds, add the tomatoes, juice and all, 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, the oregano, cinnamon stick, lemon and bay leaves. Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook until the sauce is thick, about 25 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick, lemon quarters and bay leaves.
While the meat sauce is simmering make the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a skillet then whisk in the flour until smooth. Add the milk all at once and cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, whisking frequently to keep lump-free. Add ¾ teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper and the nutmeg. Whisk the egg yolks in a small mixing bowl. Turn the heat off the sauce, ladle about ½ cup of the sauce into the beaten egg yolks and whisk until fully blended. Add the egg yolk mixture to the sauce and whisk the sauce until it is uniform in color and fully combined.
Layer half the pasta into the prepared baking dish, top with the meat sauce sprinkle on 1 ½ cups of the cheese and top with the rest of the pasta. Pour the béchamel sauce over the top, smooth with a spatula and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
This recipe can be prepared and baked later – cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Take out of fridge and let sit at room temperature while the oven preheats. Bake as directed.
To bake ahead and freeze prepare up to making the béchamel sauce, cover with a layer of plastic wrap and then a layer of foil. Freeze for up to a month. Defrost the casserole, prepare the béchamel sauce and bake as directed.
To bake ahead and reheat just reheat at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes uncovered.
This Gluten Free Pastitso Recipe serves 10 – 12
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