Lighten Up: Pastitsio

I found this recipe while clicking around the Weight Watchers website looking for healthy recipes in which use some leftover red wine I had.  Branden loves Pastitsio and isn’t home this week, so I figured I’d give this “skinny” version a shot so if it was terrible, I didn’t have to listen to him whine about how “diet” food doesn’t have any flavor.  surprisingly, this recipe wasn’t too bad at all!

So what makes this version healthier?  First of all, the use of 93/7 ground beef helps out a bit in terms of fat compared to the traditional ground lamb.  The other obvious difference between this recipe and its full-fat counterpart is that fact that this recipe only uses 8 oz. of dry pasta instead of a whole pound.  Less pasta, less carbs (which usually translates to less happy in my mind, but there’s enough other stuff going on here that you don’t miss it…unless you’re starving).  Next, this recipe replaces whole milk with fat free evaporated milk and cuts out most of the butter traditionally used.  I know what you’re thinking, that’s the good stuff.  Honestly, I was pretty shocked myself, but this recipe works out pretty well.  While I obviously prefer the full-fat version, this is a pretty decent substitute that I don’t feel guilty eating.  I might actually make it again for Branden…

Before we go on to the recipe, I have a couple comments.  First of all, while this recipe isn’t overly difficult, it does take time.  I think total I spent about 1.5 hours preparing this meal.  Second, I made a couple changes based on preference and stubbornness:

  1. I used more wine then called for mostly because I wanted to get rid of the wine I had left (I didn’t want to have to find another recipe to use red wine in and I certainly wasn’t dumping it).  I probably ended up using closer to 3/4 c. of wine and honestly would probably do it again.
  2. I have to be in the right mood for whole wheat pasta, so I used enriched white pasta instead.  Branden and I really like Ronzoni’s Smart Pasta (in the purple box)- it has all the nutritional values of whole wheat pasta, but looks and tastes just like traditional white pasta.
  3. I added more salt and about 1/4 tsp. white pepper to the white sauce.  Without these additions, I thought it was going to be a bit bland.


  • 1 lb raw lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 oz. canned tomato sauce
  • 1/4 c. red wine, dry
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 8 oz. uncooked whole-wheat pasta, such as penne
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 c. fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1 TBS butter or margarine
  • 2 TBS all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 1/2 c. fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350º.  Coat a 9×12 glass baking dish with cooking spray.

To make meat sauce, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook beef and onion, stirring frequently, until meat is brown and onion is tender, about 10 minutes; drain off fat.  Stir in tomato sauce, wine, and cinnamon.  Bring to boil and then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.  Combine 1 beaten egg, 3/4 c. of evaporated milk and cooked pasta in a large bowl; toss to combine and set aside.

To make cream sauce, melt butter or margarine in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir in flour, salt and pepper.  Gradually add 1 1/2 c. of evaporated milk, cook, stirring until thickened and slightly bubbly, about 5-8 minutes.  Very gradually stir in 1 beaten egg and egg whites into hot milk mixture (be careful not to scramble the eggs); set aside.

Layer half of pasta mixture in prepared dish; spread with meat sauce and sprinkle with 1/4 c of cheese.  Top with remaining pasta mixture, pour cream sauce over top and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Cover and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and continue baking for about 15 minutes more or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Let stand 15 minutes before slicing into 8 pieces.

Categories: Entrees, Greek, Recipes | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Lighten Up: Pastitsio

  1. Wait you have leftover red wine? Kidding. This looks great.

    • Okay, let me clarify :) We had opened a bottle of wine that was line of on the backside of good, so we drank a glass or two and decided to use the rest for cooking. This leftover wine deal was a phenomena in our house for sure!!

      • There’s a liquor store in my neighborhood that has a $6 rack and my wife loves to go and buy a few bottles and see which are A) worth buying again B) OK to drink once C) OK, maybe as a second bottle D) for the cooking rack.

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