An Italian pasticcio is a baked dish of vegetables, meat or pasta that is bound together with béchamel sauce, eggs and cheese. It can either be turned out like a pie or served straight from the baking dish. This tasty version contains well-cooked green beans and is based on a Marcella Hazan recipe. It is a long-time family favourite, especially with my vegetarian daughters.
I like to serve the green bean pasticcio as a main course for lunch or dinner accompanied by oven-baked tomatoes or fresh tomatoes. For the baked tomatoes, cut them in half, sprinkle with salt, pepper and olive oil and bake in the oven at the same time as the pasticcio.
This pasticcio takes a bit of time to prepare but is well worth it. The béchamel sauce and beans can be prepared earlier in the day. Pasticcio can also be made with other vegetables such as spinach, silverbeet, broccoli, zucchini or peas.
Photography by Sophie Harper
- 500g green beans, topped and tailed
- 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp (30g) butter
- 2 tbsp (30g) flour
- 300ml (scant 1 1/4 cups) milk
- 2-3 sprigs of thyme
- freshly grated nutmeg
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 50g (1/2 cup) grated parmesan cheese
- 4 free-range eggs
- dried breadcrumbs
- Choose a round 20cm ovenproof dish or springform tin, brush it with olive oil or butter and coat with breadcrumbs.
- Cut the beans into 2.5cm lengths and place them in a shallow saucepan or deep frying pan. Pour in just enough water to cover the beans and add a dash of olive oil, thyme sprigs and pinch of salt. Cook uncovered on moderate heat until the beans are tender and the water has cooked away. Keep an eye on them and stir from time to time.
- Preheat the oven to 180C regular or 160C fan.
- To make the béchamel sauce, heat the milk gently in a pan or the microwave. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan on medium heat and stir in the flour. Continue stirring the roux and cook for a minute or two. Gradually whisk in the hot milk and continue whisking until the sauce is thick and smooth. Take off the heat and cover with a tea towel to stop a skin forming.
- Beat the eggs in a large bowl and mix in the béchamel sauce, parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add the beans and stir through the mixture. Tip into the prepared dish or tin and drizzle a little olive oil on top. Bake for about 45 minutes until the pasticcio has formed a crust and is golden.
- Place it on a rack and run a knife around the outside edge. Let it settle for five to ten minutes first and then turn it out onto a plate. It should slip out of the dish or tin easily. Put another plate on top and turn over to be right side up. Serve warm.