Every time I hear the word “Moussaka”, I can’t help but think of “Mufasa” from the movie “The Lion King”:
Sabrina says I’m weird.
And while she may or may not be right, one thing is for certain: I absolutely loved this Greek speciality. The components are simple: roasted eggplant, lightly spiced lamb filling, and a luxurious béchamel sauce covering the top. Just looking at it now makes me wish I had made it for dinner tonight.
Like most casseroles, this can (and should) be made ahead of time – which makes it a perfect freeze-ahead dinner option.
- 3 lb eggplant (2 large or 3 medium)
- 1/3 cup olive oil, or as needed
- 2 cups diced onion
- 1 lb ground lamb (or substitute beef, turkey, pork, or combination)
- 1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 2 cloves
- Small piece cinnamon stick (or 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon)
- 1 bay leaf
- Pinch ground allspice
- Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
- 4 tbs butter
- 4 tbs flour
- 3 cups milk
- Pinch nutmeg
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated, plus additional for topping.
To prepare the eggplant: Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Slice the eggplant into 1/3″ rounds. Place on a baking sheet that has been drizzled with olive oil. Drizzle additional oil over the eggplant slices, and season liberally with fresh ground black pepper. Place in the hot oven and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the eggplant is nicely browned and cooked. Remove from the oven and set aside.
To prepare the béchamel sauce: In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour, and cook for two minutes. Whisk in the milk. Cook, stirring, until thick and smooth and the mixture comes to a full boil. Remove from the heat and add the nutmeg, and pepper. Allow to cool, then stir in the cheese.
To prepare the meat sauce: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the ground meat and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently and breaking up the meat, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, allspice, pepper, and about 1/2 cup water. Simmer until thick and flavorful, about 30 minutes. Add the red wine and continue simmering until the wine has developed a sweet aroma, about 10 minutes longer. Turn off the heat and set aside.
When you are ready to bake the moussaka, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
To assemble the moussaka: Scatter the bread crumbs in a deep, rectangular baking dish. Place a layer of half of the eggplant slices over the bread crumbs. Add the meat sauce and spread it into an even layer. Add the remaining eggplant in an even layer over the meat sauce. Pour the cheese sauce over the eggplant, and sprinkle with additional cheese. Bake, uncovered, until the cheese sauce is thick and golden brown and the eggplant is very tender, about 45 minutes. Let the moussaka rest for about 20 minutes before cutting and serving