When you vacation at over 7,000′ in the Big Horn Mountains, you don’t go out to dinner much. The road to town isn’t paved with good intentions or anything else and the sign at the bottom recommends four-wheel drive vehicles only. Our trusty Sienna takes us up and down easily, but if we hit 15 mph going up, we’re pushing it! The Red Grade Road is steep and rocky and needs to be treated with respect. This year it’s fairly “smooth” as things go, as the logging trucks have been using it. When you go down, either shift into four-wheel drive if you have it or use your lowest gear and don’t ride your brakes. Don’t want to burn them out! Once you get off the mountain, you’re back on paved roads and you feel as though you’re going 100 when you’re only going 35.
Meals take planning as you can’t run to the store if you forget or run out of something. (See previous paragraph.) I plan carefully, although this year I forgot my chunk of Parmesan and had to change some meal plans around until after our day in town.
One of our go-to meals has always been pastitso, a hearty combination of pasta, meat and Mornay sauce. If you’re vegetarian, you could probably put veggies where the meat layer goes; if vegan, faux meat or some sort of beans/lentils might work as well. I’ve made this with almond milk, too. It’s good for a large group, leftovers are great and you can make it in advance if you like.
Bon appétit or, as the Greeks would say, “Kali orexi!”
1 lb. ground beef
1 chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 t. salt
2 dashes cinnamon
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce, preferably no-salt-added
3 T. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. milk
dash of white pepper
dash of ntmet
1/3 c. Parmessan
16-oz. small elbow macaroni
shredded cheese, enough to cover the top of the casserole
In a large skillet over medium heat, saute onion and garlic until soft. Crumble in the meat and stir until mostly cooked but still a bit pink. You may want to turn in a sieve and drain off some of the fat. Stir in 1 t. salt, the cinnamon and tomato sauce. Set aside.
in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 2 T. of butter, the whisk in flour. Add milk and whisk until thickened. (I often pre-heat the milk in the microwave.) Add 1/2 t. salt, pepper, nutmeg, and Parmesan. Set over very low heat to mellow.
Cook macaroni until al dente. Drain well and return to pot. Break eggs into the macaroni and add 1 T. butter. Mix well.
Oil or spray with Pam a shallow 2 1/2 qt. baking dish and put one thin layer of pasta on the bottom. Cover with all the meat, then cover with the rest of the pasta. Pour the sauce over the pasta, taking care to cover it all and stir a bit to distribute. Cover with chees and sprinkle with nutmeg.
Bake uncovered at 375 F for 1 hour. You may need to cover the cheese with tented foil near the end so it doesn’t get too risp. You can also refrigerate the casserole and then bake 25-30 min. longer.
(The original recipe put half the pasta on the bottom, but we like the pasta with the sauce, so I’ve adapted it in this way.)