Tasty slow cooker pastitsio – so easy to make and perfect for the family to enjoy. This Greek-inspired dish with lamb in a spiced sauce and pasta topped with béchamel sauce is full of flavour.
If you read my blog regularly you’ll know I’m always on the lookout for tasty meals to make for my family in the slow cooker. It’s the convenience of being able to do the cooking preparation earlier in the day so you don’t have to do it after a long day when everyone is tired and hungry.
Slow cooker lasagne remains one of our favourite recipes as it is so simple to make and you can include lots of vegetables to make it healthier and to make the meat go further. This dish uses some of the elements of lasagne so it’s a great option for families as it will be a familiar dish.
This delicious slow cooker pastitsio combines lamb mince and red pepper in a tomato sauce spiced with a touch of cinnamon with those perennial favourites pasta tubes, béchamel sauce and grated cheese.
Quick to prepare and then leave to cook in the slow cooker, you’ll definitely want seconds.
This makes a deep layered dish which can easily serve 6 people. Made in a 5.7 litre slow cooker.
What is pastitsio?
Pastitsio is a typical Greek dish similar to lasagne with layers of minced (ground) meat in a sauce spiced with cinnamon or nutmeg, tube pasta and béchamel sauce. It often uses lamb but can also be made with beef too.
There are variations on pastitsio which are made in Greece, Cyprus. Egypt and Malta, all with regional differences such as the kind of meat and cheese used but the overall idea is the same. This recipe is in the Greek style.
It is bound to be far from authentic as I am not Greek but this is my take on the dish, adapted to be made in the slow cooker!
To make this recipe, you will need the following:
- olive oil
- lamb mince/ground lamb – I used 10% fat but the normal 20% fat mince can also be used (if so make sure you drain the mince after frying it off)
- red pepper
- cinnamon, oregano
- chopped tomatoes (tinned)
- tomato puree
- garlic puree – you could also use fresh garlic instead
- pasta tubes – I used rigatoni but you could also use macaroni
- plain flour
- milk – I used semi-skimmed but full-fat milk is also fine
- grated cheese – I used mature cheddar
Step 1. Fry the lamb mince in the oil in a pan or wok, then add the chopped onion, red pepper, tinned tomatoes, cinnamon, oregano, garlic puree, tomato puree and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
Note that you don’t need to cook the sauce at this point, just make it up in the pan after browning the lamb mince. It will cook in the slow cooker. Place half the meat sauce in the slow cooker.
This meat layer ensures the first layer of pasta will cook through in the sauce. If the pasta was directly in the bottom of the slow cooker it would stick and probably stay hard.
Step 2. Top the meat sauce with half the pasta tubes – I used rigatoni here.
Step 5. Make the béchamel sauce in a small saucepan (melt the butter, add the flour, cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the milk little by little, whisking very well) and bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes until very thick. Add the ground nutmeg and salt and pepper to season the sauce.
Step 6. Pour the béchamel sauce over the pasta, ensuring it is all covered evenly.
Step 7. Top with grated cheese.
Step 8. Cook for four hours on high or 6-7 hours on low.
Step 9. Slice with a serrated knife through all the layers, and use a large spatula to remove portions from the slow cooker pot. Serve with green vegetables on the side.
Tip: To get cleaner slices to come out of the slow cooker pot, allow the pastitsio to stand for at least half an hour before serving if you can. Then it won’t fall apart quite as much as it can do.
More to try
If you are looking for slow cooker recipes that are perfect for families with children, make sure you check out my guide to family slow cooker recipes that kids love which has 20 brilliant recipes to shake up your meal plan.
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Slow Cooker Pastitsio
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 500 g lamb mince / ground lamb I used 10 % fat
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 red pepper chopped
- 400 g chopped tomatoes
- 3 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1.5 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp garlic puree
- salt and pepper to season
- 250 g pasta tubes I used rigatoni
For the béchamel sauce:
- 30 g butter
- 30 g plain flour
- 350 ml semi-skimmed milk
- 70 g mature cheddar grated
- 0.25 tsp ground nutmeg
- salt and pepper to season
- Fry the lamb mince in the olive oil in a pan or wok.
- Once browned, remove from the heat and add the onion, red pepper, tin of tomatoes, tomato puree, cinnamon, oregano and garlic puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Place half the meat sauce in the base of the slow cooker pot.
- Add half the rigatoni in a layer on top of the meat sauce.
- Put the rest of the meat sauce on top.
- Add the rest of the rigatoni on top of the second layer of lamb sauce.
- Make the white sauce. Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour, cook the roux for 1-2 minutes. Add the milk little by little, whisking well after each addition. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until thick.
- Season the béchamel sauce with salt and pepper and add the nutmeg.
- Pour the white sauce over the pasta and meat sauce layers in the slow cooker pot, ensuring all the pasta is covered.
- Top with the grated cheese.
- Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours.
- If you have time, leave the dish to stand in the slow cooker for 30 minutes before serving so that it stays together better.
- Serve by slicing through all the layers with a serrated knife then using a large spatula to serve out portions.