A vegetarian version of the Greek taverna classic, this casserole is usually made with a rib-sticking filling of ground lamb and pasta. Here, Swiss chard stands in for the meat, and its firm texture lends the dish a substantial feeling, even if it is much lighter than the traditional recipe. You can serve this pastitsio as a main course or try it as a rich side dish for roast or grilled lamb.
9 main-course or 16 side-dish servings
- To make the sauce: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce has reduced to about 3 cups, about 40 minutes. (The sauce can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)
- Meanwhile, prepare the chard filling: Slice the stems crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide pieces. Working with a handful of the leaves at a time, stack the leaves and roughly cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips, then coarsely chop the strips.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the stems and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. In three or four additions, stir in the chard, waiting for the first batch to wilt before adding more. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chard is tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and let cool for about 10 minutes. Press and squeeze the chard to remove excess moisture. Transfer the chard to a large bowl. (The chard can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)
- Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the orzo and cook according to the package directions until it is barely tender. Do not overcook, as it will become more tender when baked. Drain, rinse under cold running water, and drain well.
- Stir the orzo and tomato sauce into the chard. Add the feta, eggs, salt, and pepper and mix well. Spread the chard in the dish. (The filling can be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before continuing.)
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
- To make the custard: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture bubble without browning for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer, whisking often, over medium heat. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the yogurt and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan. Season to taste with the salt and pepper, taking care with the salt, as the cheese is salty. Whisk in the eggs and nutmeg.
- Spread the filling in the prepared baking dish—you should have at least 1/2 inch clearance from the top of the dish for the custard layer. Spread the custard on top and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake until the custard topping is set and golden brown, about 45 minutes. (The pastitsio can be cooled, covered with aluminum foil, and refrigerated for up to 1 day. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Bake, covered, until heated through, 30 to 40 minutes.) Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes to set. Cut into pieces and serve.
Recipe by Rick Rodgers
Rick Rodgers is an award-winning cooking teacher and the author of over 40 cookbooks on a wide range of subjects, including The Big Book of Sides (Ballantine). In addition to writing the TasteBook.com column ‘”Tips from the Test Kitchen,” Rick works with entertainment figures, corporations, and celebrity chefs on their cookbooks. His clients include Tommy Bahama, Frankie Avalon, Patti LaBelle, and Williams-Sonoma. See more of his work on www.RickRodgers.com.