with Never on Sunday, musical score by Manos Hadjidakis
"Never on Sunday" is a black and white, romantic comedy full of witticisms and set in the Greek port of Piraeus. It was made by American Philhellene Jules Dassin. When it was released in 1960, its New York Times review centered on the male protagonist although the central life of the film is at least equally carried in the role of Ilya, a Greek prostitute played by the phenomenal actress Melina Mercouri.
Mr. Crosley finally gets around to mentioning the female lead actress in the fifth paragraph of his review. This is a beloved film starring the great Ms. Mercouri (who later became the Minister of Culture for Greece), made by a true lover of Greeks who spent the remainder of his life in Greece until his death at the age of 96. With "Never on Sunday" Dassin creates a filmic grappling with modern Greece's struggle to understand its loss of grandeur, and its enduring self-love as a nation nonetheless, ironies and contradictions be damned.
The score for the film is one of the best ever made, composed by the inimitable Manos Hadjidakis. I played it while making my favorite Greek dish—pastitsio—and was just as transported by the music as by the smells of wine cooking in the sauce, spiced with clove and cinnamon. His skilled, mesmerizing compositions blend the traditional with the contemporary and fills its listeners with the spirit of an entire people, as well as a nostalgia for the Greek richness of life.
Recipe from mygreekdish.com, always a go-to for traditional Greek recipes. This one takes some work but it's worth it.
for the meat sauce:
- 700g lean minced beef (25 oz)
- 2 medium sized red onions (finely chopped)
- 2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
- 400g canned chopped tomatoes (14 ounces)
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tsp sugar
- a glass of red wine
- a bay leaf
- 1 cinammon stick
- 1 whole clove
- 1/4 of a cup olive oil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
for the béchamel:
- 1 cup flour (120g or 4 oz)
- 1 stick of butter (4 oz)
- 3 and 1/2 cups milk, warmed
- 2 egg yolks
- 100g Parmigiano-Reggiano or Kefalotyri (3.5 ounces), grated (and a little extra for topping)
- a pinch of nutmeg
for the pasta:
- 350g (12 ounces) macaroni for Pastitsio (you can substitute penne or ziti)
- 110g feta cheese (4 ounces)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- Start by making the meat sauce. Heat a large pan to medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Stir in the chopped onions and sauté, until softened. Stir in the garlic, tomato puree and the beef (breaking it up with a wooden spoon) and sauté until not pink but not brown. Pour in the red wine and wait for it to evaporate. Add the diced tomatoes, sugar, cinnamon, clove, the bay leaf and season (you may want to put the clove in a tea ball infuser for easy extraction). Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer with the lid on for about 30 minutes, until most of the juices have evaporated. (After the meat is cooked, remove the bay leaf, the clove and the cinnamon).
- Prepare the béchamel sauce. Use a large pan to melt the butter over low-medium heat. Add the flour whisking continuously to make a paste. Add warmed milk in a steady stream and keep whisking in order to prevent your sauce from getting lumpy. If the sauce still needs to thicken, boil over low heat whilst continuing to stir. Remove the pan from the stove and add the egg yolks, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and the grated cheese (save some for topping the whole dish). Whisk quickly, in order to prevent the eggs from turning an omelette!
- Cook the pasta for the pastitsio 2-3 minutes less than the package instructions, so that they don’t get mushy when they bake more in the oven. Drain the pasta and stir in the eggs and the feta cheese (smashed with a fork) and mix gently with a spatula.
- For this pastitsio recipe you will need a large baking dish, around 9 x 13 in. Butter the bottom and sides of the dish and assemble the pastitsio. First place the drained pasta and disperse evenly, then top with the meat sauce and even it out. Top the pastitsio with the béchamel sauce and smooth out with a spatula.
- Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake the pastitsio in preheated oven at 350° for about 40 minutes, until crust turns a light golden brown. Let the pastitsio cool down for a while before serving (this is a must!).