Layers of rich lamb sauce, soft pasta and thick creamy béchamel are baked in the oven until golden to make this leftover lamb pastitsio. This delicious Greek pasta bake makes an easy dinner from leftover lamb the whole family will enjoy.
Seeing how much my family enjoy Greek slow cooker lamb shanks which combines pasta and lamb with Greek flavours; I thought I’d try a Greek lamb pasta bake with leftover roast lamb, and is has been getting the thumbs up from young and old throughout testing!
Layers of soft pasta, rich leftover lamb ragu, and velvety thick sauce are baked in the oven until bubbling and golden. Also known as Pastichio, it is like a Greek lasagna, as this dish contains all the delicious elements: rich sauce, pasta and creamy sauce. Whilst traditionally made with ground meat, often using beef or beef and pork, I have used leftover lamb.
If you are often looking for leftover lamb recipes, my crispy lamb wraps are a quick and fun take on crispy duck pancakes, these Greek lamb wraps with tzatziki are another quick dinner, or this leftover lamb shepherd’s pie is always popular.
Why we love this recipe
- Delicious and easy leftover lamb recipe, from roast lamb or leftover slow cooker lamb. This lamb pasta bake is also a great way to use up a slightly smaller amount of leftover roast lamb (see ‘budget tip’ below).
- This leftover lamb pasta dish is useful for using up leftovers: not only lamb leftovers, but leftover gravy too, and you can add a few leftover cooked vegetables such as carrots or roast veggies to the sauce!
- It’s ultimate comfort food. The Greek bechamel sauce (besamel) is thickened with an egg yolk to create a rich and thick sauce that is just so good with the tomato sauce flavoured with cinnamon and the soft pasta that absorbs all the flavours. (Don’t worry about having a leftover egg white – that gets mixed in with the cooked pasta!)
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of the post for ingredient quantities.
- Leftover cooked lamb. You can use leftover roast lamb or slow cooker lamb. Lamb leg, shoulder or even leftover lamb shank will work (as long as you haven’t cooked the slow cooker lamb in an Asian or curry style sauce!)
- Tinned Tomatoes – you can use fresh tomatoes if you prefer, I often use tinned / canned tomatoes to keep the cost down. Either use chopped tomatoes or plum tomatoes and break them down with the back of a spoon.
- Onion – brown onion or red onion both work in this recipe.
- Garlic – fresh garlic or 1 teaspoon of jarred minced garlic or garlic paste.
- Spices – ground cinnamon, ground cloves and ground nutmeg for the sauce.
- Bay leaf – if you don’t have bay leaves then leave out or see these substitutions for bay leaves.
- Pasta – traditionally often made with Greek bucatani, you can make it with Italian bucatani, or I often use penne or ziti / rigatoni pasta. However if you prefer you can also use macaroni, bows, fusilli.
- Egg – I use size large eggs which weigh approx 60g each. You use the yolk to thicken the sauce, and the egg whites to mix through the cooked pasta to help hold the pasta together.
- Butter – I use unsalted butter as the stock / gravy can be salty. If you use salted butter then carefully check the lamb sauce for saltiness so as to not over season.
- Plain flour – also called all-purpose flour
- Milk – I use whole / full fat milk but you can use half fat milk if you prefer.
- Gravy – if you don’t have any leftover gravy you can use a chicken or beef stock. Add ⅔ c / 150ml of stock, as using stock rather than gravy will make the sauce thinner.
- Cheese – I use cheddar cheese or tasty cheese to keep the costs down, but you can use parmesan, feta or goats cheese if you prefer, or Greek Kefalotyri.
How to make this leftover lamb pasticcio from scratch
Please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of the post for the full recipe.
- Cook the pasta. Whilst the pasta is cooking, make the Béchamel:
- Gently melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. When it’s melted add the flour and stir well to combine. Add the milk a little at a time, stirring vigorously or whisking with a ballon whisk after each time.
- When you’ve added half the milk, use a balloon whisk to stir in the rest of the milk. Turn the heat down, add a pinch of nutmeg, season with black pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring every so often. Once thick take off the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
- Make the leftover lamb ragu sauce
- Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan pan and add the chopped onion. Cook over a medium heat for 7-10 minutes, until softened. Add the crushed garlic and cook before adding the ground spices, bay leaf and tomato puree and cook for 1 minute.
- Tip in the chopped tomatoes, shredded / cut lamb, and stock or gravy and simmer for 5 minutes until thickened.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain and stir in the egg white.
- Add the egg yolk to the cooled sauce and whisk in quickly to combine.
- Layer the pasta bake:
- Add the cooked pasta coated in egg white to the baking dish and spread ouyt in an even layer.
- Pour over the lamb ragu and spread to cover the pasta.
- Pour over the bechamel, spread out in an even layer to coat the meat and sprinkle with cheese.
- Place in the preheated oven and bake until golden.
Although they are pretty similar, pastitsio doesn’t contain aubergine / eggplant, and moussaka doesn’t contain pasta.
As this pastitsio recipe is made with leftover lamb I do not recommend making it ahead.
You can store leftover lamb in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.
My recipe tips
- Cook the pasta for a minute less than the instructions on the packet to avoid overcooked, mushy pasta.
- To make a smooth sauce – whisk the milk in a little at a time, making sure all the milk is incorporated into the sauce before adding more.
- Let the béchamel sauce cool for 5 minutes before adding the egg yolk. Whisk the yolk into the sauce quickly to prevent it from starting to cook and scrambling.
- Add the egg white to the pasta just before assembling – otherwise it will dry out slightly and the pasta won’t hold their shape as well.
- Letting the lamb pastitsio stand for 5-10 minutes before serving makes it easier to cut.
As this pasticcio recipe already uses leftover lamb and gravy I do not recommend making it ahead or freezing it.
- Feta – add feta cheese to the cooked pasta with the egg white, or sprinkle some feta cheese over the top of the sauce before baking.
- Beef – this Greek pasta would be delicious made with leftover roast beef, just substitute in place of the lamb and make as per the recipe. You can also make it with savoury mince instead of the meat sauce, adding a touch of ground cinnamon and cloves for that Greek flavour.
Why not try…
You may also like these other family friendly pasta dinners:
Leftover Lamb Pastitsio
- 26 x 20 cm (10 x 8 inch) deep ovenproof dish
- 200g (7 oz) penne pasta
- 50g (1¾ oz) butter
- 50g (⅓ c) plain flour
- 500ml (2 c) milk
- pinch ground nutmeg
- black pepper, to season
Leftover lamb sauce
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, brown or red, roughly chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree / tomato paste
- 400g (14 oz) tin/ can chopped tomatoes
- 250ml (1 c) leftover gravy. If using stock or water instead use ⅔ c / 150ml.
- 200-300g (7 – 10 oz) leftover cooked lamb, shredded or chopped into bitesize pieces.
- 1 egg, seperated
- 40g (1½ oz) cheddar cheese, grated, for top
- Preheat the oven 180˚C fan / 200˚C / 356˚F convection / 392˚F.
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook for 1 minute less than the instructions on the packet say to cook it for.
Make the bechamel
- Gently melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium heat.
- As soon as the butter has melted, sprinkle in the flour. Stir well to combine.
- Add the milk a little at a time, stirring vigorously or whisking with a ballon whisk after each time.
- When you’ve added half the milk, use a balloon whisk to stir in the rest of the milk.
- Turn the heat down, add a pinch of nutmeg, season with black pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring every so often.
- Once the sauce is thick and the flour has cooked, take the pan off the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes whilst you make the lamb sauce.
To make the lamb sauce
- Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan and add the chopped onion. Cook over a medium heat for 7-10 minutes, until softened.
- Add the crushed garlic and cook for 1 minute before adding the ground cinnamon, ground cloves, bay leaf and tomato puree.
- Cook for 1 minute then tip in the chopped tomatoes, shredded / cut lamb, and stock or gravy, bring to the boil then turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain and then stir in the egg white.
- Tip the pasta in to a 26 x 20 cm (10 x 8 inch) deep ovenproof dish.
- Spoon the lamb sauce over the pasta and spread out in an even layer.
- Add the egg yolk to the cooled bechamel sauce and whisk in quickly to combine.
- Pour the bechamel over the lamb and spread out with a spoon, making sure the sauce is covering all the lamb.
- Sprinkle over the cheese and place in the preheated oven to bake for 30-40 minutes until bubbling and golden brown and bubbling.
- Leave to cool for 5 minutes before serving.