A plant-based version of the classic Greek recipe, Pastitsio.
Welcome to More Kouppes, and to our first guest (meaning, not our parents’) Greek recipe! When we decided to share favourite meals from families which were not our own, we knew that we would focus on recipes we had either heard people raving about (Oh man, my mom’s spanakopita is like, The Best!), or food that we had been lucky enough to eat, and love. Immediately we knew that this vegan pastichio would top the list. A few times a year, during periods of lent, this dairy, egg and meat-free pastichio unexpectedly appears and replaces the brown bagged lunch of peanut butter or hummus. What a delicious surprise! The sad sandwich gets tossed, and the day is immediately better. The woman behind this delicious, and unexpected real meal, is Κυρία Αργυρώ (Mrs. Argyro), and her lenten pastichio is so, so, SO good!
Κυρία Αργυρώ is a wife, a mother, a grandmother to 4 beautiful children…and, she has a heart of gold. She must, as she kept smiling through the arduous task of cooking while we monitored, measured, questioned and mimicked her every move. In learning her tricks to making a delicious vegan pastichio, we also learned that she has a kitchen full of wisdom. This lady is smart, and clearly takes much pride in producing healthy, delicious and hearty meals for her family.
We want to take the opportunity to once again thank Κυρία Αργυρώ for being our first More Kouppes guest. We know that if you decide to try her recipe, you’ll be thanking her too!
Helpful hints, courtesy of Κυρία Αργυρώ:
Κυρία Αργυρώ uses the pan pictured below to bake her pastichio. Practically, what you need to know is that this is a round, metal baking pan which is 14 inches in diameter and approximately 4 inches deep. However, you probably won’t have a pan which is exactly like this one. Why? you ask. Because this pan used to belong to Κυρία Αργυρώ’s mother. Many years ago, while in Greece, Κυρία Αργυρώ purchased for her mother, her very first electric oven. The oven came with three pans; the one below, a similar one in a smaller size, and a cake pan. How wonderful! Several years later, when her mother passed away, Κυρία Αργυρώ kept this pan as a keepsake and memory of her mom. It was beautiful to see how she treasures it still, and how happy she was to share the story of it’s origin. So no, you likely won’t have a pan exactly like this one. Simply try to find something with similar dimensions and create your own beautiful memories.
How to make a vegan pastitsio
There are key ingredients which are required to make this pastichio vegan and lenten. First is the use of ground soy. Κυρία Αργυρώ uses dry, dehydrated, crumbled soy (meant to resemble ground meat) in this recipe. Although she typically brings this back from Greece during her holidays, it is a product which is relatively easy to find, particularly in natural food stores. If you cannot find dehydrated ground soy you can use the ground soy which needs to be refrigerated (and which is not dehydrated). One brand we often purchase is Yves Veggie Cuisine, but any other good quality soy product you may be familiar with should work too.
How to make vegan bechamel
The béchamel sauce is made without eggs, with unflavoured, unsweetened, natural soy milk instead of dairy milk, and margarine instead of butter. When purchasing your margarine be sure to read the label; it appears that not all margarines are vegan (who knew?!). Somehow, all of these substitutions work and you end up with a béchamel sauce which is thick, creamy and so tasty. You may find, as you are cooking the sauce, that it is clumpy. We were worried that this would be a problem, but nope…all was good. Κυρία Αργυρώ assured us that lumps did not matter so long as all of the ingredients were blended well together, and she was right (duh!). The final product was smooth and lump-less.
Κυρία Αργυρώ uses freshly grated nutmeg in her pastichio. She feels that the taste, and quality of the nutmeg is far superior this way. She is probably quite right, and encourages us all to do the same.
If you are using homemade tomato sauce Κυρία Αργυρώ suggests adding 1 teaspoon of sugar to the vegetable mixture. This is not included in the recipe below as she does not usually use homemade tomato sauce. However, if you do, remember the sugar.
You may be surprised to find that this lenten pastichio is a little on the sweet side. We’re not sure if this is due to the ground soy, the non-dairy milk, or the margarine. Or perhaps, the sweetness comes from the love that Κυρία Αργυρώ pours into it; love of family, of tradition and faith. We noticed that before the pastichio went into the oven, she blessed it with the sign of the cross. Whatever the reason, the sweetness is subtle and lovely.
Looking for more vegan and lenten options? Check these out:
- Lasagna baking pan
For the vegetable mixture:
- 2 spring onions chopped
- 1 cup grated carrot
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 2 medium onions, diced into small pieces
- 1/3 cup red pepper, finely chopped
- 1 cup Greek olive oil
- 2 tbsp + 1 ½ teaspoons red wine
- 1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
- 2 cups dry (dehydrated) ground soy
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 ½ cups tomato sauce or tomato juice
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 vegetable bouillon cube
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 cups boiling water
For the pasta:
- 500 grams Misko #2 pastichio pasta see notes
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp Greek olive oil
For the bottom of the pan:
- 1 tbsp vegan margarine
- 2 tbsp tomato sauce or tomato juice
For the bechamel:
- 1/2 cup vegan margarine
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 ½ cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups + 100 mL soy milk (natural, unflavoured, unsweetened)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 tbsp Greek olive oil, for drizzling
- In a large pot combine the spring onions, grated carrot, chopped parsley, onions, red pepper and 1 cup of Greek olive oil. Saute over medium high heat for approximately 10 minutes, until vegetables are softened and onion is translucent and slightly caramelized. Stir regularly.
- Add red wine, oregano and saute for 2 – 3 minutes.
- Add the dry (dehydrated) ground soy, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and saute for an additional 5 minutes. Stir regularly.
- Add the tomato sauce, ground black pepper, garlic powder, salt, vegetarian bouillon cube, tomato paste, nutmeg, ground cinnamon and boiling water and cook for another 15 minutes. Stir regularly.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt to the water and when it comes to a boil add 500 grams of #2 Misko pastichio pasta. Cook according to package directions, until you can easily bite through them. They should be al dente; not super soft.
- Drain pasta and return to pot. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the noodles. Add 6 heaping tablespoons of the vegetable mixture to the noodles and mix thoroughly.
- Take baking pan. Grease it with 1 tablespoon vegan margarine and coat it with 2 tablespoons tomato sauce.
- Add pasta to the baking pan. Top with the remaining veggie mixture.
- To make béchamel, heat 1/2 cup margarine and 1/3 cup vegetable oil in a saucepan. Add 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mix until margarine has melted and then add 2 cups + 100 mL of soy milk. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk. Cook over medium heat for approximately 8 – 10 minutes. The béchamel sauce will be somewhat lumpy…don’t worry about that too much. It will also be quite thick. Add grated nutmeg. Stir to combine.
- Top the pasta and vegetable layers with the béchamel. Drizzle about 1/2 tablespoon olive oil on top of béchamel. Bake, uncovered, for approximately one hour at 400 degrees Fahrenheit in lower third of oven.