Pastitsada, Corfu’s family dinner favorite

Corfu has a long history of gastronomy –so similar in terms of ingredients but also so different in its interpretation –to the rest of Greece’s culinary traditions- with influences ranging from its Mediterranean landscape to its Venetian occupation.

pastitsada2

The cuisine of this beautiful island is neither spicy nor bland, but rich in the flavors of the Mediterranean. Specialties consist of local ingredients found on the island, especially olives, lemons, vegetables, tomatoes and fish.

Corfu’s cuisine is inextricably tied with its history, a parallel but different journey than the one of main Greece. While the mainland was being occupied by the Ottoman Empire, Corfu and other islands of the Ionian Sea were, for centuries, occupied by the Venetians. Subsequent influences brought by the British, French, and Italians helped shape the island’s culinary evolution.

pastitsada_fishSeafood  pastitsada as served at Trapezaria

So, what is pastitsada?

At every celebration and local “panigiri” (festival), and in every restaurant on the island, some version of pastitsada will be served, a casserole dish that can be made with meat, poultry, and seafood, and its sauce is a spicy variation of the dish kokkinisto (veal cooked in tomato sauce) served in the rest of Greece.

Corfiot pastitsada is better served with pasta called “hontro macaroni” like the Italian ziti or bucatini and topped with grated kefalotiri, graviera or myzithra. Accompany that dish with a fresh Greek salad and rustic bread that will help you wipe the sauce off the plate!

How to make veal pastitsada (6 servings)

Ingredients: 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 pounds boneless veal shoulder trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch cubes, 2 large onions finely chopped, 3 garlic cloves chopped, salt and freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 cup dry red or white wine, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 3 whole cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 bay leaves, 2 pounds ripe tomatoes peeled, seeded and finely chopped, 1 pound bucatini or ziti, 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted, 1 cup freshly grated kefalotyri cheese

pastitsada_veal

Directions:

  • In a medium-sized enamel cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat
  • Brown the veal on all sides (about 6 minutes)
  • Add the onions, stir, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until soft (about another 5 minutes)
  • Add the garlic and wine and season with salt and pepper
  • Stir, and then add the vinegar, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves
  • Stir again and add the tomatoes
  • Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook until the veal is very tender for about 2 1/2 hours. The sauce should be thick, so reduce it if it’s not. Remove and discard the bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cloves
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, salt abundantly and add the pasta. Drain when soft and pour into a deep serving bowl or platter
  • Pour the melted butter over the pasta, sprinkle the cheese over and toss to evenly coat
  • Ladle the veal sauce over the pasta and serve
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