3/4 pound penne pasta or elbow macaroni

3/4 pound penne pasta or elbow macaroni
2 eggs, separated, plus two yolks
11/2 cups loosely packed shredded kefalotiri cheese
1/2 cup, plus 5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 pound lean ground lamb or ground beef
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups milk
11/2 cups shredded kefalotiri cheese
1 tablespoon dry bread crumbs

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water about 11 minutes or until al dente. Drain, place in a large bowl and let cool slightly.

In a bowl, lightly beat whites of the eggs with a fork (save yolks for the bechamel sauce) and add the cheese. Stir into pasta.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large heavy skillet and sauté the onion until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ground meat and cook 5 minutes, until browned, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes, wine, cinnamon, cloves, pepper and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove cover and continue to simmer until juices are reduced, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove meat sauce from heat and let stand while preparing bechamel sauce. After sauce cools a bit, spoon off any excess fat.

Heat the 1/2 cup of butter until melted. Whisk in the flour, nutmeg and remaining salt until blended. Cook, stirring 1 minute. Stir in the milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Add the cheese. Heat and stir just until cheese is melted.

Blend a little heated sauce into the egg yolks and return all to saucepan. Heat and stir until sauce thickens slightly and is almost at a simmer. Do not boil.

Grease a 12-by-2-inch-deep round baking pan or a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Add pasta to pan and spread in an even layer, then spread cooled meat sauce over pasta. Spoon bechamel sauce over meat in an even layer. Sprinkle bread crumbs over sauce. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and drizzle over bread crumbs.

Bake 20 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool slightly, cut into square pieces and serve.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

NOTE: Kefalotiri cheese can be purchased at Greek markets. May substitute pecorino Romano or Parmesan.

From the May 30, 2007, Mail Tribune.