Vegan pastitsio (Greek lasagna)

Vegan pastitsio (Greek lasagna)

vegan pastitsio slice

Easter is coming and so I bet you are looking for a crowd pleasing dish, which whoever gathers around your table, vegan or not, would be happy to tuck into. I have one such dish for you and I challenge anyone not to enjoy it. It’s called pastitsio and it’s the Greek answer to lasagne, although some people say that it’s actually Italian. I’m not sure, but I do know a good pastitsio from when I lived in Greece as it is a mandatory staple on every decent taverna’s menu.

It’s a really comforting dish but as it’s eaten in Greece, which, Northern mountainous regions aside, doesn’t really know true winter 😉 – I feel like it’s very appropriate right now even if Easter Sunday turns out to be sunny and warm and you never know – especially when you live in the UK like me… Whatever weather Zeus sends us, we will be fine with a tray of pastitsio to dive into, hahahaha.

Compared to moussaka, pastitsio isn’t as well known outside of Greece but it’s just as delicious and a little less fussy to make too. It consists of three distinct layers, the first one being pasta traditionally bound together with eggs and feta cheese, followed by beef ragu and crowned with layer of creamy béchamel.

Traditionally, bucatini pasta is used for the base, but I decided to use the more widely available macaroni as it passed the test cooks with flying colours and it makes the recipe a little more accessible too. An important thing to remember is not to overcook your pasta! Having lived in Greece for four years, I noticed that they tend to take their pasta way beyond al dente. Initially, I put it down to a mistake or maybe personal preference of the cook but then I noticed that all the pasta packets I’ve ever bought whilst living there overstated pasta cooking time considerably. It is in Greece that I got into the habit of never quite trusting the prescribed cooking time and finding it out for myself. In the case of this dish, as the bake spends 50 minutes in the moderately hot oven, it is imperative to only just pre-cook your pasta or your will end up with an overcooked mess at the end.

I replaced beef with a delicious and accidently healthy combination of umami-rich mushrooms and fibre-rich lentils. They deliver heaps of flavour and texture and make this still indulgent dish way healthier too. While traditional pastitsio boasts 800 kCal per portion, this guy comes in at half that. The final layer is béchamel, which is by far the most indulgent element of this entire dish, but I feel that it’s okay to indulge from time to time, isn’t it? It is made with mild tasting olive oil, flour and oat milk. It’s light, creamy and makes this dish so addictive. Its creaminess works beautifully against the slight tanginess of the tomato and wine based ragu. I like to serve it with a large green salad, some good wine and nibbles like olives, dips and crackers.

We have been living on a few variations of this dish for the past week and we’ve enjoyed it immensely. It took our taste buds right back to living on the Mediterranean sea, which we miss this year in particular. I hope you and your nearest and dearest will enjoy it just as much and it will make your Easter gathering a little bit more special. καλή όρεξη!

vegan pastitsio ingredients

vegan pastitsio pasta ragu layers

vegan pastitsio bechamel layer

vegan pastitsio cutting

vegan pastitsio cross section

vegan pastitsio piece

serves
9-12
PREP
45 min
COOKING
120 min
serves
9-12
PREPARATION
45 min
COOKING
120 min
INGREDIENTS
RAGU

  • 30 ml / 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 250 g / 8¾ oz chestnut / cremini mushrooms, cleaned
  • 125 g / 4½ oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, cleaned
  • ¾-1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp salt, adjust to taste
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper, to taste
  • 120 ml / ½ cup red wine
  • 400 g tin plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste / concentrate
  • 3 tsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tsp vegan Worcester sauce
  • 2 fresh or dry bay leaves
  • a few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
  • pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
  • 150 g / 1 cup cooked Puy or other firm lentils
  • 1 tsp sugar or date nectar

PASTA LAYER

  • 300 g / 10½ oz macaroni pasta* (GF if needed)
  • 120 ml / ½ cup oat milk (or other plant milk)
  • 1 tbsp tapioca
  • salt and pepper

BECHAMEL (or alternative bechamel)

  • 1 head of roasted garlic cloves**
  • 2 tsp white miso paste
  • 840 ml / 3½ cups oat milk (I recommend Oatly original) or other plant milk
  • 80 ml / 1/3 cup mild olive oil (or 100 g / 3½ oz vegan butter)
  • 85 g / 2/3 cup AP flour (or GF flour mix)
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp salt, adjust to taste
  • ¼ tsp pepper, adjust to taste
  • freshly ground nutmeg (I used 1/3 whole nutmeg), to taste

METHOD
ROAST GARLIC (optional but recommended)

  1. Preheat the oven to 200° C / 390° F.
  2. Cut the top of the garlic head(s) off with a knife. Drizzle the exposed cloves with olive oil and wrap the garlic in a piece of kitchen foil so that the tops of the cloves are protected from getting burnt.
  3. Place in a preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes, until the cloves are soft and caramelised. Store in the fridge for 1 week.

RAGU

  1. Heat up olive oil in a large, heavy-bottom pan. Once the oil starts shimmering, add diced onion and sauté, on a low-medium heat, until translucent and only just caramelised (about 15 minutes). Skip to step 3 while waiting.
  2. Add in the garlic and fry for a few more minutes until fragrant.
  3. While the onions are sautéing, dice your mushrooms quite finely. You can use a food processor but it’s too easy to overprocess them so I prefer to chop them by hand, it also saves on washing up.
  4. Once the onion-garlic mixture is ready, add diced mushrooms in three batches so that you don’t overcrowd the pan. As soon as the first batch is cooked (turns dark brown), add the next.
  5. Once all the mushrooms are cooked, season them with cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper. Allow all the water to cook out.
  6. Add in wine and allow the alcohol taste to cook out before adding in plum tomatoes, their juices, tomato paste, a cup of water (rinse your tin with it), tamari, Worcester sauce (if using), bay and thyme leaves and a pinch of chilli (if using).
  7. Break tomatoes up with a wooden spoon and give the mixture a good stir. Simmer for about 45 minutes, until tomatoes have fully broken down and sauce becomes homogenous. Give the sauce a good stir from time to time, add a splash more water if the pan is looking too dry.
  8. Once the tomatoes break down fully, stir in cooked lentils. If the ragu is too dry, add a little water as it will dry out more during baking.
  9. Adjust the seasoning and add a touch of sweetness if desired. Set aside to cool.

PASTA

  1. Cook pasta for half amount of the time stated on the packet. My macaroni packet said 11-13 minutes, I cooked it for 6 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water.
  2. Return the pasta to the empty pot you cooked it in, stir in oat milk, salt and pepper to taste and tapioca flour.

BECHAMEL

  1. Measure out the milk. Blend roasted garlic cloves and miso paste with 120 ml / ½ cup of the oat milk allocated for the béchamel sauce.
  2. Slowly heat up olive oil in a large saucepan (stainless steal works best for this). Once the oil starts to shimmer, gradually whisk in flour. Keep whisking until the mixture is super smooth. Allow the mixture to bubble gently, whisking the whole time, for a few minutes so that there is no raw flour taste in your béchamel, but make sure it doesn’t colour.
  3. Next, reduce the heat to low and start adding in oat milk while whisking the whole time. Initially the mixture may thicken really quickly and look a bit lumpy – don’t worry, it will recover once all the milk has been whisked in. Once the mixture looks stable whisk in nutritional yeast and allow it to melt into the sauce, then continue adding in the rest of your milk, including the batch you’ve whizzed up with garlic and miso. Simmer only just enough for the sauce to thicken then season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

ASSEMBLY

  1. Preheat the oven to 180° C / 390° F (or 20° C / 70° F less with fan).
  2. Arrange a layer of seasoned pasta at the bottom of the baking dish (see notes).
  3. Spread ragu on top of the pasta, followed by the béchamel.
  4. Bake for about 50 minutes, rotating the dish halfway through cooking to ensure it bakes evenly. Increase the oven temperature by 10° C / 35° F for the last 10 minutes of baking time to speed up browning.
  5. Allow the dish to set for at least an hour or else the slices will come out messy, although I do recommend waiting to consume until the following day – the flavours will mellow and the dish will taste even better. Store the leftovers for up to 5 days in the fridge or freeze in air-tight containers.

NOTES
*Traditionally, bucatini pasta is used, but as I could not find any locally, I went for macaroni, which worked really well. Alternatively, you can also use ziti or penne.

**I recommend baking 3 heads at one time as they make a great addition to salad dressings, dips, soups. Alternatively you could use a finely grated clove of raw garlic, which you can add in straight or sauté it in the oil first, but be super careful not to let it turn brown – it will make the béchamel taste bitter.

The baking dish I used is a square 25 cm / 10″ dish, but another shape dish of similar surface area will work just as well.

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NUTRITIONAL INFO
calories
296
15%
sugars
10 g
11%
fats
10 g
14%
saturates
1 g
7%
proteins
8 g
16%
carbs
43 g
17%
*per serving
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5.0
16 reviews, 33 comments
REVIEWS & QUESTIONS
Amy Magner:
Absolutely delicious! Used to love pastitio pre-vegan so this is such a treat to be able to have it again- the bechamel is amazing.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks so much, Amy! I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed it so much and many thanks for taking the time to leave this review - I really appreciate it. x Ania
Paula:
Love this recipe ! So easy to make and great flavors. I invited my vegan neighbors to enjoy and they loved it 😊. I will be making this again.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Aw, thanks Paula, that's so lovely to hear and what a great neighbour you are! And thank you for taking the time to review this recipe – I really appreciate it. x Ania
Glenn:
Thanks for the inspiration for a fun few hours in the kitchen this afternoon! Prior to going vegan, pastitsio was what I always felt like making as it got close to the time of our town's annual Greek festival. Love the combination of mixed mushrooms and lentils. I added a few button mushrooms with the shiitake and cremini. I like how it worked with ziti pasta boiled for just five minutes. I appreciate the pro tip to cook for half the package directions. Can't wait for the leftovers tomorrow! Definitely will make this a few times a year.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you for your kind words, Glenn! I am so happy to hear that this dish has hit the spot and that it brought back some nice food memories without compromising your ethics. Thank you for taking the time to leave this lovely review - I really appreciate it as it helps my work to be seen by more people. x Ania
Denise Litchfield:
THIS IS MAGIC! Comfort food in a baking dish, and the unexpected spices add the best touch. I have yet to get my noodle base looking as perfect as the picture, but who cares? The result is amazing.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks for your kind words, Denise. I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed it and thank you so much for taking the time to review. I agree, neat slices matter much more when you've got to photograph it, otherwise a dose of rusticity is probably preferred :) Ania
David:
Such a great recipe— a little involved, but a great Sunday project! I made the bechamel with no oil!!! I used 1 c oatmilk (leaving 2 c to add later) to suspend the flour. I added 1 tbsp tapioca flour to help thicken it. Turned out PERFECT. Next time I might roast some carrots to add to the ragu— you can’t have too much umami. Everyone (15 yo daughter included) Loved it.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks for your kind feedback, David and I'm delighted to hear that it went down so well. And I love the sound of that healthier bechamel too. x Ania
Emily:
Made this for my Dad's birthday has he grew up loving pastitsio and is now vegan. We all absolutely loved it!!!! Thanks for this recipe.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks Emily! I'm delighted to hear that it was well received by your dad and and other family members. Many thanks for taking the time to let me know that you've enjoyed it so much. x Ania
Susan:
This dish was amazing! It had the perfect flavour profile and was a restaurant quality dish. My family of four devoured the whole thing in one sitting it was so good!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Susan! I'm delighted to hear that it went down so well with your family and thanks so much for taking the time to leave a review - I really appreciate it. x Ania
Clarita Scioscia:
I so appreciate your time and the links, thank you! I'm going to get some, can't wait, this is a game changer!
    Ania
    Ania:
    My pleasure!
Clarita Scioscia:
So I didn't want to take up any more of your time and thought I'd just Google kombu, because I've never heard of it. I couldn't get a satisfactory answer. Would you mind telling me about it and how it helps? Do you use it with all beans? Thank you again!
    Ania
    Ania:
    It's not a problem. Kombu is a type of seaweed (see here) and adding a small piece to the cooking water helps to neutralise certain properties of legumes that tend to cause gastric issues in some people. See this article, for example. Hope this helps. Ania
Clarita Scioscia:
Thank you so much for the quick response, very helpful, thank you!
Clarita Scioscia:
I made this for dinner last night, wowza, so good! It's a time investment, but so worth it. What do you think about adding dried lentils and extra water to the ragu while it's simmering, rather than add already cooked lentils at the end?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Clarita! I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed it! It depends how sensitive you are to lentils. I like to cook them separately to be able to skim the foam and add a piece of kombu as I find that this makes them easier on my stomach, if you have no issues you can absolutely cook them in the sauce. Additionally, cooking them separately also gives you better control over the level of doneness. Hope this helps. Ania
Jackie:
Our daughter made this for us recently - it was amazing ! The ragu is so so tasty, I think this is definitely a dish that would win round vegan sceptic dinner guests. Thanks for sharing xx
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Jackie! I'm so happy to hear that this dish has hit the spot and thank you for returning to let me know that it was such a success - I really appreciate it. x Ania
Hemmy:
This was a hit in our house, we're not vegan, but are trying to eat more plant based, as much as possible. My meat loving, mushroom hating son even loved this one, so that's high praise indeed! Loads of flavour and full of umami, so we really loved this one and will do it again. Thanks!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks so much for your kind words, Hemmy! I'm delighted to hear that you and your family enjoyed it and plan to make it more often. And thanks so much for returning to leave this lovely review - I really appreciate it! Ania
Anna:
I've made this recipe today. Replaced lentils with whole mung beans and used fettuccine pasta. We eat lentils often, I just wanted some variety. The fettuccine was the only pasta I had at home. The recipe looks very complicated, but it is worth following exactly, if only to get the feel and taste of the intended result. I can think of many variations for that middle layer! I really liked the pasta trick - undercooking the pasta, then mixing with vege milk and tapioca. The pasta will be chewy and will stick together nicely. I let the pastitsio rest for 30 minutes before eating - we just couldn't resist the aroma :-P. If you cook the pasta first and then layer it in the baking dish, you can reuse the pot to make the top layer, saves on washing.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks so much for your lovely feedback, Anna. I'm delighted that you and your family enjoyed it and thank you so much for taking the time to leave this lovely review - I really appreciate it, it helps my work reach more people. x Ania
Stefanie Hall:
Loved this thank you. This was always my favourite dish when in Greece when I ate meat and I'd never made it before so it seems right that the first time I do it's vegan. The flavours took me there and whilst it takes a while it was sooo good with left overs too, although not as much as other have said!
    Ania
    Ania:
    I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed it, Stefanie and that it brought back happy holiday memories! And thanks so much for taking the time to leave this lovely review - I really appreciate it. Ania
Catherine McAleese:
Hi! Just finished making this - it looks amazing but there's loads!! Can I freeze it?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Catherine,Absolutely, just portion it and lock away in air-tight containers. Ania
Jenny:
Hi Ania! I recently discovered your blog and am equally enjoy your writing voice as much as your delicious recipes. I’m a very intuitive vegan cook, mostly reading food blogs for inspiration. However this time I more or less followed this recipe. I admittedly cheated with a jar of marinara sauce and some Moroccan spice blend. Oh my goodness. After eating this dish for dinner three nights in a row my husband and I will be mourning the absence of it in our refrigerator. I found myself thinking about it in the late afternoons, asking myself it was too early for dinner. Definitely a new favorite to make for guests, a holiday, or a particularly bleak feeling Monday. Thank you!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Jenny! I'm delighted to hear that you found my blog and that this recipe has been such a hit with both you and your husband that you plan to make it more often - that's the best compliment I could hope for! x Ania
Clare Tyler:
Ania, this is so delicious! I love this take on lasagne, the cinnamon and clove are such great flavors! This will be a family favouritw for us. Thabk you for the great recipes. Clare
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Clare! I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed it so much and plan to make on the regular basis! x Ania
Erin W:
This dish was OUTSTANDING!!!! The only thing I did differently was I substituted meatless crumbles for the lentils, as I don't really care for them. The ragu was so flavorful and the Bechamel was so delicious that I'm going to use it in other recipes. Thanks for sharing this! Will make again and again.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Erin! I'm chuffed to hear that you enjoyed this dish so much that you plan to make it on a regular basis. And thanks so much for taking the time to let me know - I really appreciate it. x Ania
Kelley Butler:
Absolutely wonderful. I made a day ahead and reheated for Easter Dinner. The non-vegans were going back for seconds! Thank you so much!
    Ania
    Ania:
    That's so lovely to hear, Kelley! I'm overjoyed to hear that this recipe was such a hit with everyone, including non-vegans! Thank you so much for taking the time write this lovely review - it's is very motivating to know that my work is making a real difference to people. x Ania
Heather:
My grandmother used to make Pastisio. I look forward to trying a vegan version!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Great to hear, I hope you'll enjoy my take on it! Ania
Do you eat this at room temperature then, or if you wait a day and store in the fridge - are you eating it cold? Thanks.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi,Yes, it is typically eaten at room temperature or only just a little warm. It takes a while before it becomes cold. I recommend eating it a day after it has been made as the flavour improves with time. You can either just bring it back to room temperature (especially on a warm day) or if you want it warmer, place in a low oven for 30 minutes or so. Hope this helps! Ania
Simon:
this is something new for me, curious about it's taste.
    Ania
    Ania:
    You should give it a go, you won't regret it, promise! x Ania
Ramya:
will be making this soon i never had greek lasagna before perfect for my after office meals everyday will dm you if i make this and let you know how it goes Thanks Ramya
    Ania
    Ania:
    Awesome, hope you will enjoy it! It will keep you fed for days! Goes well with a big green salad. x Ania
Deb:
Hi Ania, This recipe looks so good and compliant with my diet except for the nutritional yeast...what would be a good substitute ?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Deb,You could use another tsp of miso paste (but dial down salt) or maybe a tiny amount of marmite (if you can have it). Don't worry roasted garlic, nutmeg and miso provide plenty of flavour so you can skip it too if you wish. Hope this helps! Ania
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