A Greek-Italian slow cooked stew with flavours that will make you weak at the knees, Pastitsada is truly a gift from the gourmet gods!
Comfort food just doesn’t get any better than this. So, cook it up for your next Sunday lunch, invite the extended family over and watch everyone fall in love with this Mediterranean marvel.
Why you’ll love this pastitsada recipe
- The intense rich flavours are unbelievably satisfying
- The subtle spices add an extra depth of character
- As it’s a slow-cooked stew – most of the work is done in the oven
- It’s all cooked in the same pot – saving on washing up!
- It’s perfect when served with pasta, mash or polenta
Equipment needed to make this recipe
Here’s a couple of essential items you’ll need before you get started:
- Oven-proof cooking pot – a large pot is essential for this recipe. Make sure it’s oven-proof. I recommend going for a cast iron one
How to cook Pastitsada
Fry the onions and garlic until golden and softened. Remove from the pot.
Brown the beef.
Add the onion mixture back in.
Add the tomatoes.
Don’t forget the spices!
Give everything a good stir before cooking. Braise for 3 hours.
Remove the bay leaf and serve immediately on your favourite pasta.
- You can replace the 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon with 1 cinnamon stick
Variations to this recipe
- Add a tablespoon of tomato paste for an extra rich ragu
- When browning the beef, don’t crowd the pan. Do it in batches – I found a third of beef each time works for this recipe – that way, you’ll be able to get that wonderful seared flavour.
- Add a splash red wine when browning the beef for extra richness
What to serve with Pastitsada
Traditionally, pastitsada is served with pasta. You can use any type of pasta to soak up the tomato sauce, although I recommend pasta like penne and rigatoni as they both work especially well with this dish. You could also serve it with a type of pasta like spaghetti or linguine.
Mashed potatoes or polenta
Another traditional way of serving pastitsada in Greece is on a bed of polenta or with a big helping of mashed potatoes.
The pastitsada recipe is a very rich tomato sauce based dish, with various subtle spicy undertones. So, it’s important to choose a wine that can balance with the acidity of the dish, while complementing the rich aromatic flavours.
If you want to stay true to the origins of the dish, go for a Greek or Italian wine. A Greek Cabernet Sauvignon would make a great pairing with pastitsada and, when it comes to Italian wines, Chianti is ever-dependable.
Another good option is Malbec red wine, which pairs wonderfully well with rich meat dishes. If you can find a good barrel-aged wine, even better, as they really bring out those wonderful clove aromas!
What exactly is pastitsada?
Pastitsada is a beef stew, slow cooked in a tomato ragu with spices, such as cinnamon. Perfected over many years on the Greek island of Corfu, the dish actually has its origins in the Verona region of Italy.
Originally known as Pastissáda, the Italians would make the dish using any available meat – including beef, chicken and even horse meat (Pastissáda de cavál). That was a long time ago and, nowadays, beef – specifically beef braising steak – is the go-to main ingredient.
With a combination of onions, garlic, chopped tomatoes, bay leaf, salt, black pepper and spices, the rich tomato sauce is supremely tasty. When slow cooked in the oven with the beef, it’s simply out of this world.
What cheese should I use?
For an authentic pastitsada, use kefalograviera. It’s a common Greek cheese made from sheep’s cheese. It tastes salty with a slight nuttiness and is absolutely delicious when grated over this dish.
You could also use grated parmesan, which brings that same nutty, salty, rich taste.
Can you freeze it?
Yes, you can freeze pastitsada. Store it in an airtight freezable container for up to 3 months. You will lose some of that wonderful rich flavour though.
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A Greek-Italian slow cooked masterpiece. This Beef Pastitsada is bursting with rich flavour. Perfect when served with pasta.
- 30ml (1 tbsp) olive oil
- 1kg (2.2lbs) beef braising steak
- 30ml (1 tbsp) olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 x 400g (2 x 14oz) cans of chopped tomatoes
- 6g (1 tsp) salt
- 4g (2 tsp) allspice
- 1.5g (½ tsp) ground cinnamon
- 0.5g (¼ tsp) ground cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- cooked spaghetti
- grated parmesan or kefalograviera cheese
- 6g (¼ cup) chopped parsley
- Preheat the oven to 150°C/fan 130°C/300°F/gas mark 2.
- Heat the oil in a large ovenproof dish over a high heat. Add a third of the beef and cook for 5 minutes until well browned. Set aside on a plate and repeat to brown the remaining meat.
- Add the onions to the pot. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes or until just starting to colour.
- Add the garlic and fry for another minute.
- Return the beef to the pan and give it a stir, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any caramelized bits of meat from the base of the pan.
- Tip in the tomatoes and all the spices. Give it a good stir and ensure that the meat is submerged in liquid.
- Bring to a boil and reduce the heat until a slow simmer is reached.
- Cover with a lid and place in the oven. Cook for 3 hours or until rich and thick. It’s a good idea to check in on the beef stew every hour to see if it needs topping up with a splash of water. You don’t want the sauce to dry up with stringy meat.
- Season to taste and serve on a bed of pasta of your choice. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and parsley. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
- For a top quality beef stew, use homegrown tomatoes instead of canned. Plunge them in just boiled water in order to peel them, then deseed them before adding them to the beef. Pure bliss!
- Since I don’t like chunky tomato pieces in stews and sauce, I blended the tomatoes in a food processor until smooth before adding it to the meat.
- Different cuts of beef need different cooking times. It’s always a good idea to check on the stew every once in a while and give the meat a poke until it gives way under the fork.
- Traditionally, in most cases the stew is served on a bed of spaghetti or penne.
- This Greek beef stew freezes well.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Stew
- Cuisine: Greek
Keywords: pastitsada recipe, patisava, spetseriko, traditional corfu recipes, beef stew with penne pasta, beef and tomato stew, greek pastissada