Pastisio/Pasticcio

This dish, pronounced “pastitzo” to the Greeks and “pastichio” to the Italians is something my yia yia (Greek grandmother) made often when I was a child and I loved it. Of course, her version was made with a meaty bolognese and a Greek style béchamel that has an egg whipped into it. You might have tried that type of white sauce before on moussaka.

At the age of 12 when I was trying to become vegetarian, this dish was one of my weaknesses and much to my yia yia’s dismay, I eventually started scraping out the layer of bolognese and just eating the pasta and béchamel. Thankfully, with a bit of imagination and skill, I can recreate a vegan version of this childhood memory in my very own kitchen!

Traditionally, yia yia always used tubular pasta but you could use any pasta you like – including gluten free.

Pasticcio 3
Serves 8-10, depending on the shape of your baking dish. Mine divides into 9 comfortably.

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Lentil Bolognese

I haven’t really divulged or discussed my heritage on this blog… What better time to tell you than now! One of my parents is Italian and the other is Greek – so as you can imagine, I was surrounded by some pretty amazing food while growing up. In addition, I was brought up in a culturally diverse suburb of Melbourne where being caucasian made you the minority – so I learned to accept and embrace different races and cultures from a very young age. I can’t thank my parents enough for bringing me up in such an environment and I have no doubt that this has heavily influenced my curiosity with international cuisine.

Although I was born and raised in Australia, because of my upbringing, I sometimes struggle with understanding Australian slang and colloquialisms and am also both baffled and humoured by Australian home style cooking. You know what I’m talking about – desserts using Kellog’s cereal or Arnott’s biscuits as the main ingredient; meals that are flavoured with tinned soup or sachets of dried soup… And of course Vegemite, which will always confuse and bewilder me. I may have had a chance with Vegemite once upon a time, however my sister convinced me that it tasted like Nutella so I shoved a heaping tablespoon of it in my mouth. To this day, the smell of Vegemite makes me want revenge.

I also have some very amusing food quirks and opinions that I don’t even realise are odd until someone laughs at me for voicing them. For example – we always used flat leaf parsley in our house and mum referred to the curly variety as “Aussie parsley”, while insisting that it had no flavour; kalamata were the only type of olive I’d eaten until I was in my twenties.. and of course: tomatoes are rubbish unless they’re home grown.

I’m sure as this blog develops, you’ll read more bits and pieces about what led me here – but for now, a recipe!

Lentil Bolognese
Yields 8.5 cups and is suitable for freezing.

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Recipe Review: Meatballs

Last night, I made the meatballs recipe from The Hardcore Herbivore. I’ll admit I’m not a stranger to Caitlin and her blog. She entertained me with her punk rock tom foolery while Mr. AA & I were in Canada earlier this year and she was an absolute riot to hang out with!

Meatballs Fried
This is what they look like when fried & served with pasta sauce & risoni.

A while ago, I made her banana-coconut cupcakes with lemon glaze without the glaze and they were positively delightful! I’d been eyeballing the meatballs on her blog for a while, but was apprehensive because TVP weirds me out. A lot. I’ve never really understood or caught on to the whole mock meat thing and I don’t think I ever will… But I decided to take a punt with these and I was pleasantly surprised!

Meatballs Baked
This is what they look like when baked and served with pasta sauce & tubular spaghetti.

Honestly, these were a pretty radical thing for me to make & eat… But my feelings towards the end result were nothing but positive! The lentils dominate over the TVP, so if you’re not a fan of TVP, it’s no big deal. All it really does is add a bit of chew to the texture of the “meatballs”. There’s a good amount of flavour in these – but not so much that they’ll want to battle it out with your pasta sauce.

I wish I’d counted how many the recipe made – it was quite a few. Possibly enough for 6 people (or 4 really hungry people!). All I know is we had left overs and I can’t wait to eat them.

I baked most of them and fried a few just to see what the difference was. Frying them is a little difficult, as they mixture is soft, so you have to be super careful when you want to turn them around in the pan. Baking, on the other hand, is totally the way to go. Not only is it healthier, but it also makes your life easier and the meatballs develop an awesome crust in the oven!

Oh and by the way, that Bird in Hand wine isn’t too bad!