Greece consists of a great number of islands, both in the Ionian and the Aegean Sea, and each one of them has its own local cuisine that offers visitors a wealth of new fresh flavors that satisfy even those with the most difficult taste.
What is pastitsada?
For those who love meat, pastitsada is a delicious journey to the land of spices and fresh tomatoes. Use fresh ingredients and taste a heavenly dish! If you don’t want to cook it yourself, you can order it or eat it at a local taverna, but bear in mind that there are two options: Pastitsada made from beef and pastitsada made from cock or chicken. Although these dishes are cooked by following similar cooking instructions, the taste is distinctly different in each dish. Beef has a much better taste than poultry. Moreover, if you would like to try cock, which is much more delicious than ordinary chicken, make sure the dish you get consists of cock and not chicken. The latter is a bit cheaper to get.
The ingredients: meat of poultry?
So, pastitsada made from beef is actually a dish that consists of the following ingredients:
Some pieces of lean beef cooked in thick tomato sauce made from olive oil and flavored with garlic, onion, cinnamon, salt and black pepper. However, the best taste is achieved by using a fresh piece of meat and not a frozen one. The meat has to be cut into large chunks and be lean and red. Most tavernas on the island use fresh meat, but you can ask before ordering to make sure. Chicken dishes are often prepared with frozen poultry, but cock pastitsada is usually made from fresh cock on special days, such as national celebrations, so it is not an every day dish.
If you cook at home, substitute beef with cock, add the same sauce and spices, and you have a new version of pastitsada. Cooking time differs too, as beef needs more time to become tender than poultry. When ready, the sauce is thick and dark red and the meat tender. Use a fork to test it. If you taste a well cooked pastitsada, you do not need a knife to cut the meat.
The secret of the special flavor of this dish is to add 1-2 dry leaves of laurel in the sauce as well as a stick of cinnamon, while if you get freshly ground black pepper instead of ready made pepper sold in super markets, you get a much more tasteful result.
How to serve it
Corfiot pastitsada has to be served with freshly made pasta, such as rigatoni, boiled in salty water, topped with ample ground Parmesan cheese. Accompany that dish with fresh salad, such as the Greek salad made from sliced tomatoes, green peppers, cucumber, onions, olives and feta cheese drenched in olive oil, and you have the most popular local dish. Some fresh whole meal bread is always necessary to enhance the flavor of every local specialty. Don’t forget that Greeks eat a lot of bread, and nothing tastes better than a fresh loaf!
Photo of pasta with pastitsada by Liana Metal