Moussaka

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Moussaka was one of the only Greek foods I pretty much refused to eat as a kid.  I just really, really did not like eggplant. At all.

A couple years back, I decided to give eggplant a try in some croquettes, and realized it was pretty good.   Then I started using it in a few things here and there and realized that I actually like eggplant. This (and so many other things I’ve mentioned on this blog) is really a testament to how your tastes change over time.

Apparently some people make moussaka with potatoes and some don’t. My family has always made it with potatoes (not that I remembered that, since I never ate it…) and personally, I am all about sneaking a potato or two into a meal whenever possible. The potatoes add a little starchiness to an otherwise non-carby dish, and the best part is they soak up the drippings from the meatsauce and become so, so flavorful.  For my first moussaka, this turned out fabulous. I made a few minor tweaks to my meatsauce and bechamel from the pastitsio (just to play around a little) and my only problem was that I made too much bechamel for the pan I was using (more on that below).

Sorry about the picture. In addition to the poor lighting and wanting to eat ASAP since I had already let the moussaka cool for 20 minutes, I built this in the wrong pan. I was thinking for the amounts I had 11×17 would be perfect, but it was too small–which I only realized after layering in about half the ingredients. As a result, I couldn’t fit all the bechamel on top of the moussaka, which is a real tragedy. I’ve modified the amounts below just a  bit and asked you to cook this in a 9×13 (or even a 10×14 would work) pan, which should be perfect, and give you a nice thick layer of bechamel, just as god intended. 🙂

This recipe does have a lot of steps, but most of them can happen simultaneously so you aren’t spending forever in the kitchen. You should still leave yourself some time to make this, though, because the moussaka has to cook for about 40 minutes and you need to let it sit for about 20 before slicing into it.

Moussaka

Serves about 8-10
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2 large eggplants
2 large russet/baking potatoes, peeled and sliced lengthwise
olive oil
1 batch meatsauce (recipe follows)
1 batch bechamel (recipe follows)

Meatsauce

1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1.5 lbs. ground beef or lamb
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 Tbsp. (just over half a small can) tomato paste
1.25 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. ground allspice (I prefer the higher end, but start low and you can always add more)
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley or about 1.5 Tbsp. dried
salt and pepper

Bechamel

1 stick butter
1/2 cup flour
4 cups milk (at least 2%)–kept warm
nutmeg (I grate maybe 1/4 of a nutmeg into it)
salt and pepper
1 cup kefalotyri (or Romano) cheese
1 egg
3 egg yolks
a little extra cheese

Whether (or how) you peel the eggplants  is up to you. I usually peel about half of it, leaving what appear to be strips on the eggplant.  Then, slice the eggplants into about 1/3″ thick lengthwise slices. Layer them in a colander, sprinkling them with salt as you go, and then put that colander over a bowl. Let the eggplant sit for about 30 minutes. Then rinse the eggplant slices and pat them dry well.

Start your meatsauce. Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onion and let it sweat for a little bit before adding the beef or lamb. Brown the meat completely and drain if necessary. Then stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook it off a little before adding the water. Stir to combine the water and paste well, and add the cinnamon stick, bay leaves, parsley, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 35-45 minutes.

Meanwhile, roast your prepared eggplant slices. Heat  your oven to 375. Lightly brush a baking pan or two with olive oil, place the eggplant slices on the pan, and brush the tops with a little more oil. Season the eggplant with pepper and roast about 20 minutes or until tender, but not mushy. Leave the oven on.

While the eggplant is in the oven and your meatsauce is simmering, make the bechamel. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, and then add the flour. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon until your roux is golden and the flour is cooked off. Slowly add the warm milk, switching to a whisk if necessary to get rid of any clumps. Heat the mixture until it thickens and can coat the back of the wooden spoon. Then, stir in the nutmeg and off the heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and the cheese.  Then, mix in the eggs/yolks well. Be SURE to taste your bechamel and add any more seasonings to taste.  A batch of bechamel this big will require quite a bit of salt and pepper. If you don’t want to eat raw eggs, just taste it before the eggs go in, as eggs will not really alter the taste much.

In a nonstick pan, heat some olive oil.  Sprinkle the potato slices with salt and pepper and pan-fry in the oil until they are almost, but not completely, cooked through.  Place the fried potatoes in a 9×13″ baking dish. After the eggplant has roasted, layer half of it on top of the potatoes. Then, pour the meatsauce on top, followed by another layer of eggplant. Layer the eggplant as closely together as possible, trying to not leave any holes where the bechamel would slip through.  Finally, pour the bechamel on top and sprinkle a little bit of extra cheese on top. Bake the moussaka for about 40 minutes or until the bechamel has firmed  up and is golden on top. Let the moussaka set for 20 minutes before slicing into it.

Moussaka

  • Elly, this a KO (knock-out) Moussaka. The cold weather is here and I’m ripe to make a Moussaka too! Bravo!

  • I have always wanted to make this! You have convinced me! My husband is finally eating eggplant so I am going to give this a try. Thanks! I think the pic looks great!

  • I NEVER liked moussaka. Until I made it!!! I actually found a recipe that included red wine in the meat sauce, and while the rest of the recipe was a bit blah, I did add the red wine to my recipe and my dad loved it. I have to say, I started out frying the eggplant, but after slice #2 I was like, forget this, and roasted them like you did (which most Greeks NEVER do-I think they’re crazy!). I also par-boiled the sliced potatoes and then roasted those for a bit of extra flavor. My and the frying pan were having issues that day. But it turned out pretty darn good and now I’m addicted. 🙂

  • I NEVER liked moussaka. Until I made it!!! I actually found a recipe that included red wine in the meat sauce, and while the rest of the recipe was a bit blah, I did add the red wine to my recipe and my dad loved it. I have to say, I started out frying the eggplant, but after slice #2 I was like, forget this, and roasted them like you did (which most Greeks NEVER do-I think they’re crazy!). I also par-boiled the sliced potatoes and then roasted those for a bit of extra flavor. My and the frying pan were having issues that day. But it turned out pretty darn good and now I’m addicted. 🙂

  • Bravo Elly! this is a wonderful dish, everyone in my family enjoys moussaka during summer time, it’s one of our favorite dishes!
    Yours looks fantastic!!!

  • Ivy

    I love moussakas and even with my diet I am still cooking it. I’ve stopped frying the vegetables and have been making a very light version of it, quite satisfying.

  • This sounds fabulous! I’ve never had real moussaka but it looks like an absolutely perfect comfort food for Fall!

  • This sounds fabulous! I’ve never had real moussaka but it looks like an absolutely perfect comfort food for Fall!

  • Elly! You’ve done wonders to this wonderful Greek dish, small pan or not! It looks fabulous my dear…you should be proud!

  • Bravo sou. looks fab. great consistence and not too much bechamel.

  • That looks like a hefty portion…but that’s o.k. for you since you’re eating for two! You moussaka looks like you’ve been making it for years.

  • emily227

    I had some great moussaka at Greek Isles in Chicago. Not sure if that is a really authentic Greek restaurant or not, but I really like it.
    ~www.joyofcooking.wordpress.com

  • First off… I have been behind on my blog reading, so I jsut saw that you made your baby announcement!! Yeah! Congrats again 🙂

    This looks really good, but do you think you can make a vegetarian version? I had something really delicious at that greek restaurant on Lincoln, and I thought it was a veg moussaka?? I might be wrong, but either way this post is making me crave some yummy greek food!

    • Erin – you can definitely make it vegetarian. Stick to the meatsauce recipe (omitting meat of course) but instead of tomato paste and water, use crushed tomatoes (and maybe some diced mix in for some bite).

  • This is the best looking moussaka I have ever seen and I can tell that the taste is outstanding!

    Congrats on the impending addition to your family!

  • This is the best looking moussaka I have ever seen and I can tell that the taste is outstanding!

    Congrats on the impending addition to your family!

  • I am so with you on the whole adding potatoes to any dish theory! We love potatoes in this house! I think your moussaka looks great. I have only made it once, and it is a process to be sure! 🙂

  • I am so with you on the whole adding potatoes to any dish theory! We love potatoes in this house! I think your moussaka looks great. I have only made it once, and it is a process to be sure! 🙂

  • I LOVE moussaka and will be definitely be making this! I was actually just complaining over lunch about how we haven’t found a good Greek place in Boston yet, but I’m sure this will tide me over – YUM!

  • Nice looking moussaka! I find that I now like most of the things that I refused to eat when I was a kid.

  • I just made this and had to report back right away because it was AMAZING – SO good!!! Thanks so much for the recipe Elly! I must now attempt to distract myself so I don’t eat anymore tonight 🙂

    • I’m so glad you liked it, Kerstin!

  • I have never seen mousaka without potatoes. I totally equate potatoes with moussaka. But then it is not my area of specialty. Yours looks amazing.

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  • Kat

    Made this for dinner last night. Was great except I cut my eggplant slices too thin. Thanks for the great recipe. We will make it again soon!

    • elly

      So happy you enjoyed it, Kat!

  • I made this today and it was outrageously good. My husband said it tasted way better than the ones we tried at restaurants. Thank you for such a fabulous recipe!

    • elly

      Glad to hear it Eva!