Athanasios is our guy at Patsy D’Amore’s Pizza at the Original Farmers Market. He is always so friendly, so kind, so willing to be there for us, and he takes such excellent care of us and our Tour guests.
I am entirely intrigued with his having roots in Greece so by now he has become one of my favorite friends, and my connection to all things Greek. He is perfect for my new cooking video series … plus he immediately and enthusiastically signed up upon my invitation ;).
In our video segment together – the first of my guest series – I explain to him that as a Chef, the highest and most exalted compliment I have ever received is when someone tells me that my food reminds them of home.
Sidebar – In my If I were their Chef series in another life, I wrote stories and divined recipes that I hope captured the essence of my favorite muses. I studied their roots, passions, quirks, uniqueness – all of which inspired my recipe for them.
My new Cooking by the Sea video series will bring that concept to “live” life for the first time. Each recipe will always be my love note of appreciation to my guest, for their making my world more beautiful.
My recipe for Athanasios is the first in my new series. He works in an Italian setting while passionate about his Greek roots, especially life by the sea – so I chose shell pasta.
Béchamel sauce made with my roasted garlic butter adds depth and grace to this dish, and surprised even me with how delicious it is. Lamb is so quintessentially Greek, I had to include it; the béchamel and lamb together is sublime.
I wanted to create something like my popular lasagna without layers pasta dish, and bring some Greek traditional ingredients to it. I love spanakopita, and make it with spinach and feta, plus a mix of fresh dill, chives, mint, and parsley.
Kefalotyri is an aged Greek cheese that is a perfect counterpart to Parmigiana.
Athanasios is also a very talented artist (@itsathanacius on Instagram) and his creations make my heart so happy. He takes amazing photographs including this cover foto, draws, paints, sculpts, makes ceramics and music, cooks, salvages furniture … one of everything.
This recipe is my gift to him, for inspiring a beautiful bridge between our Greek and Italian cultures, for his kindness and passion, and for surely making our world – especially mine – more beautiful.
Greek-Inspired Baked Pasta, for Athanasios Bouras
1 lb. shell pasta, cooked al dente, according to package directions.
Drizzle cooked pasta with a bit of olive oil, set aside in large mixing bowl.
Prepare lamb for sauce:
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground lamb
In large skillet over medium heat, add oil and red onion at once. Stir to cook onion until soft, then add minced garlic, cook for another minute or so.
Increase heat to medium-high. Crumble ground lamb into pan and cook, continuing to break lamb into pieces as small as possible. When lamb is no longer pink and cooked through, remove from heat and set aside.
Prepare béchamel sauce:
1 recipe roasted garlic butter or, 1 cube unsalted butter
1/3 cup flour
4 cups miik, room temperature if possible
In large saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. When butter is melted, gradually add flour and stir quickly and evenly to cook flour, smoothing out all lumps. Create a smooth mixture by cooking for about 3 minutes. The flour must be cooked in order to yield a great sauce!
Increase heat to medium, and gradually add about 1/3 of the milk, stirring constantly. As the sauce begins to thicken, add another 1/3 of the milk and stir well again. Finally as the sauce is thickening well (and smelling amazing!), add the remainder of the milk, and stir until the sauce is thick and completed. Remove from heat, and stir in cooked ground lamb. Add:
1 cup grated Greek Kefalotyri (aged) cheese
(fine Parmiagiana is a good substitute)
Prepare spinach and feta mix:
2 cups chopped fresh spinach leaves
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
¼ cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
¼ cup fresh chives, chopped finely
1 cup fine Feta cheese, crumbled
Prepare pasta for baking:
Add spinach and Feta mix to cooked pasta, gently mix to combine well.
Stir in béchamel-lamb sauce and gently mix to combine well.
Preheat oven to 350F and lightly oil a 9”x13”x2” pan – ideally glass or ceramic.
Carefully transfer pasta mixture to prepared pan, and smooth the top.
If desired, grate additional Kefalotyri or Parmiagiana cheese on top of pasta.
Coat the inside of a large piece of foil with oil (will keep pasta and cheese from sticking) and cover the pasta tightly. Place pan on a baking sheet and place in oven.
Bake for 33 minutes.
Gently remove foil and allow to sit for about 11 minutes before spooning out of pan to serve.
Yields about 8 servings.