In the Kitchen with Chef Doughty

Pasta has become the American staple.  We see it on restaurant menus, in the supermarket, and in endless recipes.  Pasta hits the dinner table frequently and everybody has a favorite.  Chef Doughty shares her 7 tips to great pasta and her go-to casserole dish, Lamb Pastitsio.  

Seven Tips to Great Pasta

  1. As a rule, use one gallon of water to cook one pound of pasta.
  2. The water should be salted; one tablespoon per gallon.
  3. Water should come to a full boil before adding pasta.
  4. Pasta should be stirred frequently in the water to keep the pieces from sticking together.
  5. Cook pasta al dente.  If cooking pasta further (after precooking, such as in a pasta saute dish or casserole) the pasta should be even more undercooked because it will continue to cook in the saute pan or the oven.
  6. If pasta is boiled in the appropriate amount of water it does not need to be rinsed.
  7. If cooking for future use or use in a salad, drain pasta in a colander and immediately stop the cooking process by rinsing with cold water until pasta feels cool to the touch.

Lamb or Beef Pastitsio

Every home chef has a beloved go-to casserole.  For Chef Doughty, that dish happens to be Lamb Pastitsio, which she describes as Greek Lasagna, but easier to make.  The flavors and textures of this dish make it the ultimate comfort food.  The only thing better than Italian comfort food is Greek comfort food.  This dish can be assembled and held for a few days, assembled and frozen, or assembled and baked.  This dish has 4 components; the pasta, the white sauce, the meat sauce, and the grated cheese.  


1 pound penne pasta

4 whole eggs, beaten to blend

2 ounces butter, melted


1 pound fontina, grated

White Sauce:

2 ounces butter

¼ cup flour

4 cups whole milk

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ cup Parmesan cheese

Meat Sauce:

1 medium onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, minced

¾ pound ground lamb or ground beef (or combination)

16 ounces chopped canned tomatoes

½ cup red wine or 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 bay leaf

1 cup water


For the pasta:  In a large pot bring one gallon of water and one tablespoon salt to a boil.  Add penne and cook halfway, almost al dente.  Less is better because it will cook further in the oven.   Drain well in colander, but do not rinse.  Once drained, transfer pasta back to the empty pan and then add the eggs and the melted butter and toss well to coat evenly.  Set aside.

For white sauce: In a heavy medium sized saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  When melted add flour and whisk until smooth and bubbly.  Add the milk, whisking frequently increase the heat to medium, and bring to a gentle boil, then lower temperature and boil for a minute or two.  Remove from heat and add salt, nutmeg, and cheese.  Set aside.

For meat sauce:   In a large saute pan add oil, onion, garlic, and lamb.  Cook mixture until meat is done and onions are translucent.  Break down the meat with a potato masher or spatula.  Add remaining ingredients, water included and simmer until thickened.  The mixture does need to be thick, no watery sauce.

To assemble:  In a greased 9 x 13 pan (or slightly larger), spoon half of the pasta on the bottom and distribute evenly.  Take the entire meat mixture and spoon carefully and evenly over the pasta.Spread as needed with fingers to distribute evenly.  Sprinkle meat mixture with half of the grated fontina.  Spoon remaining pasta over the cheese, evenly.  Pour white sauce carefully over the entire top, submerging the penne and trying to get sauce into all the tubes that are poking out.  Top with remaining cheese.

Bake uncovered in a preheated 350 degree oven as you would lasagna, until golden and bubbly, about one hour, maybe longer if it has been assembled ahead and held in the fridge.  Let sit for 10 or 15 minutes, covered with foil, before serving.  Leftovers can be portioned and frozen for a later date.  

Mac & cheese lasagna variation:

You can modify this dish by omitting the cinnamon in the meat sauce and adding Italian style herbs and seasonings for a spaghetti type sauce.  Instead of penne pasta, use macaroni.  The cheese could also be changed to suit your taste.  The assembling and baking procedures are the same.  The result is a combination of two classic favorites, macaroni & cheese and lasagna.  Delicious!

Hungry for more? Check out Chef doughty’s book; The Chef Within Dinner Edition.  Find more information and order your copy online here:

Meet Chef Doughty

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We know her as part owner of Silvercreek Realty Group and the smiling face behind the brokerage accounting department, but did you know that Joyce Doughty has an affinity for culinary arts?

Chef Doughty is a successful food writer and restaurateur who hosted the nationally syndicated daily Public Radio food program “Food for Thought” for 17 years and was also host of the local ABC affiliate morning program “In the Kitchen” highlighting practical recipes and techniques for the kitchen. Recipient of the James Beard Foundation Top Three Chefs in Idaho Award and owner and chef of Idaho’s critically acclaimed Doughty’s Bistro. Chef Doughty was trained at Le Cordon Bleu and received her executive chef certification from the American Culinary Foundation.