Somewhat similar to lasagna, moussaka is a popular Greek dish made with layers of eggplant, seasoned ground lamb and a topping of creamy, bechamel sauce. It's easy to prepare and makes a great make-ahead dinner to enjoy with family and friends. Try serving it with our Classic Skordalia as an appetizer and a green salad dressed with a Greek-style vinaigrette.
- For the eggplant:
- 3 medium eggplant, about 2-1/2 lbs
- Olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the meat mixture:
- 1-1/2 lbs ground lamb
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-1/2 cups onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup red wine
- 1-1/2 cups diced tomatoes, undrained
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- For the bechamel sauce:
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 whole allspice berries
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 6 tablespoons flour
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Coat 2 baking sheets with nonstick spray.
Peel and cut the eggplant lengthwise into 3/8-inch thick slices. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the baking sheets, brush the tops with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the eggplant is barely tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
While the eggplant is roasting, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the ground lamb and cook until nicely browned. For best results, use a wooden spoon to break up the lamb as much as possible during browning. Drain the fat from the pan and return to the heat.
Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan along with the onion, celery and garlic. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the allspice, cinnamon, oregano, salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Combine well, and cook for an additional minute. Stir in the red wine, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.
While the meat mixture simmers, make the bechamel sauce. Warm the milk, bay leaf and allspice berries in a small saucepan over low heat. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, whisk in the flour and blend until smooth. Continue cooking until the mixture turns a rich golden color, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the allspice and bay leaf from the hot milk, then add it slowly to the flour mixture, whisking constantly to maintain a smooth texture.
Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the beaten egg, parmesan cheese and nutmeg, whisking until smooth and well blended. Set aside
To assemble the moussaka, coat a 13 x 9 x 2-inch casserole thoroughly with nonstick spray.
Arrange a layer of eggplant slices to cover the bottom. Spread about 1/2 of the meat mixture on top and cover with another layer of eggplant. Spread the remaining meat mixture over that and finish with the remaining eggplant. Pour the bechamel sauce evenly over the entire dish, using a spatula to smooth it if necessary.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and return to the oven for another 15 minutes, or until the top develops a golden brown color. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting.
Makes 8 servings
We like to partially cook the eggplant prior to assembling the moussaka to make sure that it doesn't give off too much liquid in the final dish. Also, we use ground lamb whenever possible, but if you don't care for lamb or can't find it, ground pork, chicken or beef will work out just fine.
This dish reheats well and can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.