Moussaka is an iconic layered eggplant casserole eaten in the eastern Mediterranean region. The most famous version, which we are cooking today, comes from Greece.
Though many westerners may have tried eating it, cooking it seems a bit intimidating. Today we’re going to show you that it’s not that hard to make in your own kitchen.
We wanted something really special for our 500th post. Well here it is… Moussaka!
You may have noticed we love Greek cuisine. From our Chicken Souvlaki kebabs, to those tasty little Soutzoukakia meatballs, to those super flavorful Shrimp Saganaki, we can’t stop cooking Greek recipes.
This one is different. While much of the cuisine of that ancient culture is lighter, fitting more into the Mediterranen diet mold, this is just pure comfort food. Leave your diets at the door!
While moussaka does take a bit of time and attention, it’s not complicated. Save this one for a special Sunday supper or company meal. You’ll get rave reviews.
What is Moussaka
There are different variations of moussaka throughout the Balkans and Middle East. The common components are either eggplant or potatoes, and ground meat.
This modern Greek version was developed in the 1920’s by famed French trained Greek chef Nikólaos Tselementés.
It consists of three layers: an eggplant layer, a ground meat (traditionally lamb) in a spiced tomato sauce layer, and a top layer of Béchamel sauce.
How to Make Moussaka
As there are several main components, we’re going to go through this layer by layer.
We’ll start from the bottom and work our way up, though they need not be made in that order. For example, the meat sauce can be made ahead of time.
How to Prepare Eggplant
First, cut the eggplant into half inch slices (no need to remove the skin).
Place slices in a colander and gerously salt both sides. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, then wipe dry with a paper towel. (This step removes moisture from the eggplant, avoiding soggy moussaka)
Heat oil in a skillet and shallow fry the eggplant until lightly golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.
You can opt to bake or grill the eggplant for a lighter dish, but it’s not like you’re not making this every day, so you might as well go all out!
Work in batches, removeing the cooked slices to a paper towel lined plate.
Meat Sauce Layer
- Olive Oil
- Ground meat – lamb is traditional, but we are using beef today. Pork would also work. Or use a mix, it’ll all taste great.
- Aromatics – onion and garlic.
- Sauce base – red wine, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, beef broth.
- Spices – oregano, cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg, sugar, salt and pepper.
How to Make the Meat Sauce
Heat some oil in a large skillet, then sauté the aromatics for a few minutes, till the onion starts to get translucent.
Add meat and crumble with a wooden spoin. Cook till it is no longer pink.
Add wine and simmer for a few minutes to allow it to reduce.
Stir in all of the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium low. Allow to simmer at least 20-30 minutes. You want the sauce nice and thick, and the longer it simmers, the more the flavors mingle together.
- Roux – butter and flour
- Seasonings – salt, nutmeg.
- Parmesan cheese
- Egg yolks – not in conventional Béchamel sauce, but helps the layer set nice and thick.
How to Make Béchamel
Melt the butter in a pan, then gradually stir in the flour, creating a smooth paste.
Stirring constantly, slowly add in the milk. If it starts to clump, stop adding, and make it smooth before adding more. Keep stirring over the heat until it thickens up.
Mix in spices and half of the parmesan cheese, then allow to cool for 15-20 minutes. Gradually whisk in egg yolks.
Assembling and Baking Your Moussaka
Now comes the easy part!
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
Grease a pan large enough to accommodate everything (we used a 12” cast iron skillet, or you can use a 9×13 inch baking dish).
Layer half of the eggplant, followed by the meat sauce, then the remaining eggplant, and top it all with the béchamel. Sprinkle on the remaining parmesan.
Bake uncovered 45-50 minutes. Bet your house is smelling pretty good right about now… 🙂
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, many preparations of Greek moussaka also use potatoes. Slice them to about 1/4 inch, then fry them for a few minutes on each side to soften them up. Use as the very bottom layer of the dish.
This is a very rich and filling meal on it’s own. If you want a little somthing on the side, a Greek salad would be perfect.
Yes! This is a great option when having guests over. Simply remove the moussaka from the fridge about an hour before baking, to allow it to first come to room temperature.
You can refrigerate this in an airtight container for 3-4 days. It can also be frozen in individual sized portions in freezer bags.
As it is very dense, it does take some time to reheat. Either reheat in the oven, or on low power in the microwave.
So friends, are you ready to make this super delicious Greek moussaka in your kitchen? It’s really not as hard as you may have imagined, just think of it as Greek lasagna.
If you serve this one up to guests, you’ll surely get a reputation as the best cook in town!
We love cooking these special dishes for you. Thank you to all of you who have joined us for our first 500 posts. To those of you who have just stumbled upon GypsyPlate for the first time, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. There’s plenty more to come!
Until next time…
Greek Moussaka, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 2 large eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch slices
- oil, for frying
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1.5 pounds ground lamb or beef
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 14oz crushed tomatoes
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1.5 tbsp oregano
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- salt, to taste
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3 cups milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided
- 2 egg yolks
- Place eggplant slices in a colander and generously salt both sides. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, then wipe dry with a paper towel. (This step removes moisture from the eggplant, avoiding soggy moussaka).
- Heat oil in a skillet and shallow fry the eggplant in batches until lightly golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to a paper towel lined plate
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet, then sauté the onion and garlic for a few minutes, till the onion starts to get translucent.
- Add meat and crumble with a wooden spoon. Cook till it is no longer pink.
- Add wine and simmer for a few minutes to allow it to reduce.
- Stir in all of the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium low. Allow to simmer at least 20-30 minutes. The sauce should be nice and thick.
- Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, then gradually stir in the flour, creating a smooth paste.
- Stirring constantly, slowly add in the milk. If it starts to clump, stop adding a make smooth before adding more. Keep stirring over the heat until it thickens up.
- Mix in spices and half of the parmesan cheese.
- Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes, then gradually whisk in eggs.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan, or a 12" round oven safe skillet.
- layer half of the eggplant, followed by the meat sauce, then the remaining eggplant, and top it all with the béchamel. Sprinkle on the remaining parmesan.
- Bake uncovered 45-50 minutes. If desired, you can broil for a few minutes at the end to add some golden color to the top, but keep a close eye on it.
- Allow moussaka to rest 10 minutes before cutting into it.
Nutrition InformationYield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 598Total Fat 37gSaturated Fat 16gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 17gCholesterol 165mgSodium 973mgCarbohydrates 34gFiber 6gSugar 14gProtein 33g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
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