A Classic Moussaka Recipe




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A pan of Moussaka with large spoon

Gorgeous eggplants at the farmers market this weekend inspired me to make one of our favorite one dish meals, moussaka.  This rich and comforting Greek casserole is made with layers of ground lamb or beef and eggplant, all topped off with a luscious béchamel sauce.

A pan of moussaka with large spoon


VINTAGE VIEW ~ this moussaka recipe is from TVFGI archives, first published in 2011. As part of a series on the blog I’m reviving some of the best recipes that you may have missed over the years ~ I’ve updated my notes and taken new photos.  Moussaka is one of the first dishes my husband and I discovered together as a couple, and it’s been a special meal in our house ever since.  It’s no wonder I posted about it in the very earliest days of the blog, and I want to reintroduce it to you, because it’s that good!


My husband and I first had moussaka during the year we lived outside of London after college.  We lived in a tiny flat with an even tinier kitchen, and so most of our wonderful food memories came through ready-made foods: Indian take-out, fish ‘n chips, and pub food.  We discovered moussaka in the little market near our flat where they sold homemade dinners packaged in ‘to go’ containers.  Moussaka is a Greek casserole of eggplant layered with spiced ground lamb or beef, and topped in a creamy white bechamel or custard sauce.  It’s comfort food of the highest order.

It wasn’t until we came home from our year abroad that I attempted to make this gorgeous eggplant dish from scratch.  It’s not difficult,  but there are a few steps to it.

First you’re going to want some large deep purple eggplant for this recipe, not the cute little lavender ones, above, but aren’t they pretty?

eggplant ready to be sliced for Greek Moussaka

Moussaka takes a little bit of prep, but the unusual flavors and textures are so worth it.  The work load is comparable to a homemade lasagna, so plan ahead, or do it in stages.  You can totally layer up the meat sauce and eggplant the day before, and whip up the béchamel sauce right before baking.

There are so many variations of this beloved Mediterranean classic, and this recipe is true to the one we had in England.  One note, you can use ground lamb or beef, but if you oft for lamb, be sure to ask for it lean…ground lamb can be very fatty.  Lamb has a little more flavor, but beef is fine, and it’s what I used here.

brushing sliced eggplant with olive oil and garlic for Moussaka

I slice the eggplants into 1/2 inch slices, brush with olive oil and roast them until they’re browned and softened.  Note: many recipes have you salt and ‘sweat’ the eggplant, but I don’t find this extra step is necessary, the roasting cooks them down just fine.

Roasted eggplant slices on a baking sheet for Moussaka

The rich meat sauce can get started while the eggplant roasts.  It takes about 30 minutes for the flavors to meld and the sauce to thicken a bit.  I love the mix of warm spices in this sauce.  Any number of different spices can be used in Moussaka, depending on your variation.  I kept it simple with a raz el hanout spice mix, plus my favorite zesty smoked paprika.

Raz el hanout is a Moroccan blend.  Mine contains ~

  • ginger
  • pepper
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • allspice
  • cayenne

You can sometimes find it at well stocked grocery stores, and you can always find it online, here..  You can also make the spice blend yourself ~ here’s a simple sample recipe that approximates the one I used:

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger.
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne

The whole thing gets layered up just like a lasagna, with a layer of eggplant followed by a layer of meat sauce, etc.

Moussaka ready to be topped with a béchamel sauce.

The topping is the most magnificent creamy custard sauce and the most distinctive element in a moussaka.  It’s cooked up in a saucepan and seasoned with lots of freshly grated nutmeg ~ this is essential!  Pour it over the casserole and you’re ready to bake.

Pouring bechamel sauce over a Moussaka casserole

By the time it’s done you’ll be stark raving mad with desire….

A pan of Moussaka with large spoon

Gorgeous eggplants at the farmers market this weekend inspired me to make one of our favorite one dish meals, moussaka.  This rich and comforting Greek casserole is made with layers of ground lamb or beef and eggplant, all topped off with a luscious béchamel sauce. #casserole #authentic #greek #recipe #lamb #eggplant #beef #dinner #bechamel

 


Also try ~


Moussaka
Rate this recipe
2 ratings

Category: main course

Cuisine: Greek

Yield: serves 8

Moussaka

Ingredients

  • 3-4 medium eggplants
  • olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 lb ground beef or lamb (make sure you ask your grocer for ‘lean’ ground lamb)
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup water (if the sauce is very thick)
  • 2 tsp raz el hanout spice mix
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • Bechamel sauce:
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups warm milk
  • 2 egg yolks, whisked
  • salt
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated cheese (I used Parmesan)
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Slice the eggplants into 1/2 inch slices. Mix the garlic with about 1/2 cup of olive oil and brush it on both sides of the eggplant slices. Arrange them in a single layer on baking sheets. Roast the eggplant for about 25 minutes, until browned and softened.
  3. Put a bit of olive oil in a pan and brown the ground meat. Drain off the excess fat, reserving about 2 tablespoons in the pan, and set the meat aside. In the same pot, saute the onions for a few minutes until they've softened, then add the garlic and sauté a couple of minutes more, stirring often.
  4. Add the raz el hanout and paprika to the pan and sauté, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Add the wine and let it bubble for a minute or so, while you scrape up anything stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add the meat back in, with the tomato sauce. Add the water if your sauce is very thick at this point. Cook at a low simmer for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. To make the custard sauce, melt the butter in a small pot, and whisk in the flour. Cook for a minute, without browning. Whisk in the warm milk and heat, whisking or stirring constantly, until it just comes to a boil and thickens slightly. Take off the heat and whisk in the cheese, nutmeg and salt. When the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth, briskly whisk in the egg yolks.
  7. Next, brush the bottom of a large casserole or braising pan with olive oil, and arrange a layer of eggplant slices on the bottom. Try to cover the bottom of the casserole as completely as possible.
  8. Cover the eggplant with 1/3 meat mixture. Add another layer of eggplant, and another 1/3 of the meat. Finish with a final layer of eggplant and the rest of the meat sauce. Note: if two layers work better for your pan, that's fine.
  9. Pour the custard over the top and spread out gently.
  10. Bake for about 40 minutes or until everything is bubbling and the topping is golden. I ran it under the broiler at the end to brown the top.

kitchen tool spotlight: enameled cast iron braiser

cast iron braiser

A sturdy 4 qt enameled cast iron braising pan is one of my favorites for homey casseroles like mac and cheese, baked pastas, stews, and today’s moussaka.  It bakes evenly and never sticks.  Wide and shallow, with sloping sides, this pan makes a beautiful presentation for serving, too.

*The View from Great Island is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program ~ Your cost is the same, but I earn a small commission from Amazon which helps keep tvfgi in the kitchen!

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Leave a Reply

22 Comments

  • Reply
    Alexandra
    September 18, 2018 at 5:35 am

    This is an updated and upgraded recipe – love it, Sue congratulations! When a student at the university in CA, my vacation was paid by cooking and selling my moussaka at the local diner -Wednesday special- ; easy to make, a bit of extra legwork but as Sue describes – is comfort food at its best! Plus, it freezes very well! Very well done, Sue!

    • Reply
      Sue
      September 18, 2018 at 8:17 am

      Oh wow, well, if you have any moussaka secrets, spill them here Alexandra!

      • Reply
        Alexandra
        September 18, 2018 at 12:07 pm

        I love the spices you use, they are “progressive”, the smells must be indulgent! I also bake the eggplants, its lighter, although nothing beats the fried ones! There are really no secrets, just variations. One is on the bechamel which can be replaced either with a yogurt or buttermilk sauce; I do the latter. I also substitute a layer of eggplants with grilled peppers. I add a lot of parsley and also use a lot of tomatoes with the tomato paste (as you also do) in the minced meat simmering for an hour. On top of the eggplants I add shredded mature piquant cheese. Finally, I spread small -really small- like peas, pieces of fresh butter on top of the sauce. Calories? I do not want to guess. Simply serve a small portion and have friends to share. I love this dish. Its a plethora of produce, an abundance of goodness. I am happy you like it, too.

        • Reply
          Sue
          September 18, 2018 at 12:15 pm

          Ok! Lots of good tips here, thanks. I especially love the idea of layering in peppers, I adore them :)

  • Reply
    Susan-in-Ireland
    September 18, 2018 at 3:20 am

    Thanks for including your spice-blend for the raz el hanout, Sue. Nice to have handy when it’s out of stock in the local shop. Your moussaka recipe is much like mine (from a London restaurant) except theirs included chunky potato pieces in the bottom layer. And it certainly it a comfort food. Cheers!

  • Reply
    GiGi Eats
    September 17, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    Oh my goodness, I can basically smell this recipe all the way from Los Angeles! Seriously <3 I need to make this ASAP – Beef & Eggplant = that combo is absolutely scrumptious!!!!!

  • Reply
    Ruth Justice
    September 17, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Raz el hanout is a Moroccan blend. Mine contains ~ In what measurements??????

    ginger
    pepper
    nutmeg
    cinnamon
    allspice
    cayenne

    • Reply
      Sue
      September 17, 2018 at 9:19 am

      Mine is a ready made blend, Ruth, and there are endless combinations that you can make yourself ~ here’s a sample recipe:
      1 teaspoon ground cumin
      1 teaspoon ground ginger
      1 teaspoon salt
      3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
      1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
      1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
      1/2 teaspoon cayenne
      1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
      1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  • Reply
    Joy Massa
    September 17, 2018 at 8:25 am

    Hi Sue! I love being greeted by a “New Recipe From TVFGI” when I start my laptop check in! Two questions about your well loved moussaka….Usually when I see a sprig garnish I anticipate that flavor in the dish; and although I’m not sure which herb is beautifully popping on the casserole, I don’t see any herbs in the recipe! (What may I be missing?)

    And…along that same line; I’m lost about the Raz seasoning! In all my days in the kitchen, I’m not even sure where to explore for it!? (Usually you have an amazon link to help us with the more exotic stuff…hint, hint)

    Last observation is that you are definitely “following the nutmeg”….it’s showing up today in your bechemel! LOL

    • Reply
      Sue
      September 17, 2018 at 1:32 pm

      Well, you caught me out on the herb, it’s oregano, and I used it as a prop because the dish was so plain for photos. And I’m going to amend with a link to the Raz el hanout, thanks. I depend on you guys to keep me on the ball!!

  • Reply
    2pots2cook
    September 17, 2018 at 7:59 am

    Moussaka is great, no doubt, but where on Earth did you get that beautiful plate ? :-)

    • Reply
      Sue
      September 17, 2018 at 8:06 am

      Thrift store, where else? ;)

      • Reply
        2pots2cook
        September 17, 2018 at 11:46 pm

        I guess I wasn’t that lucky then :-) ….. Thanks :-)

  • Reply
    angiesrecipes
    September 17, 2018 at 7:59 am

    It must have been over 10 years since I last had moussaka. Yours looks authentic and yummy, Sue.

    • Reply
      Sue
      September 17, 2018 at 8:08 am

      We first had it so long ago, too. Great comforting food memories are hard to beat.

  • Reply
    Tricia
    September 17, 2018 at 5:54 am

    I’ve never tried this dish before but I really want to! We love eggplant and I just don’t use it enough. Thanks for the beautiful inspiration.

    • Reply
      Sue
      September 17, 2018 at 7:19 am

      I think you’ll love this Tricia. Eggplant is a tricky one, I’m always looking for recipes for it too.

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Seasons and Suppers
    September 17, 2018 at 5:38 am

    Moussaka is such a great dish and yours looks absolutely perfect! Hard to beat the classics :)

  • Reply
    Bourbon&Pearls
    September 24, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I’m with Rose, Moussaka is one of my absolute favourites, there’s something about the flavour that is so unique, I should really try to make a home made version some time.

  • Reply
    Rose
    September 24, 2011 at 4:45 am

    Moussaka is one of my favourite dishes — both vegetarian and meat versions.

  • Reply
    Victoria
    September 22, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Oh Sue…I love moussaka!…although ( and not to be rude) in my house we call it Moose Kaka….I’m going Greek tonight too! Spanakopita in the oven as I type away! Yum yum! :)

  • Reply
    Hungry Dog
    September 22, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    This looks absolutely divine to me. I wish I could get my huz on board with eggplant! He is SO not a fussy eater but doesn’t prefer eggplant. However, who wouldn’t eat it smothered in lamp and this creamy sauce? Lovely.

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