Classic Moussaka

We are huge fans of Greek food…I make a lot of it at home and we also head over to our favorite Greek spots a few times a month (Estia Taverna and Black Olive)…but had never made Moussaka at home until this past weekend…I didn’t want to follow anyone else’s recipe – I knew the flavors very well since I’ve eaten it many times at restaurants…so I sat down and wrote my ideas out in my cooking notebook…shopped for all the ingredients ….then gave it a whirl on Sunday afternoon. It turned out superb! Definitely restaurant quality (can I toot my own horn and say even better than restaurant quality?!) I roasted the eggplant and baked the layer of potatoes before assembling the remaining layers; bringing out the delicious flavors of both, while the beef simmered in a tomato sauce seasoned with cinnamon, allspice and ginger. The final layer is a custard-like béchamel sauce topped with a mix of shredded cheeses…truly scrumptious!

Classic Moussaka
2 Eastern potatoes, peeled & sliced into semi-thick discs
1 large eggplant, peeled & sliced lengthwise into semi-thick slices
extra virgin olive oil
salt & fresh ground pepper
1 Spanish onion, peeled & diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled & minced
1 1/2 lbs ground beef, pork & veal mixture (or ground lamb)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
8 oz tomato sauce
1/4 cup good red wine
1/4 cup beef or chicken broth
Béchamel Sauce (see below)

Heat oven to 450°F. Layer a 13″x9″x2″ casserole dish with the sliced potato discs; cutting the potatoes as necessary to fill in the open spaces. Brush with extra virgin olive oil; season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Layer the eggplant slices on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Brush with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt & fresh ground pepper on both sides. Place both the potatoes and the eggplants in the heated oven. Roast for 10 minutes; flip the eggplants over to the other side and roast another 10 minutes. Remove both potatoes and eggplants from oven and set aside. Lower oven temperature to 375°F. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté the onions in a little extra virgin olive oil for 6 minutes; add the minced garlic and sauté another minute or two. Add the ground beef mixture (or ground lamb) and cook until no longer pink; drain the fat. After draining the fat add the cinnamon, allspice, ginger, oregano, parsley, 1 teaspoon salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Pour in the red wine, tomato sauce and broth. Simmer at least 5 minutes. Scoop the meat sauce onto the potatoes in the casserole dish. Next layer the roasted eggplant over the meat, overlapping if necessary. Now, prepare the Béchamel Sauce.

Béchamel Sauce
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup flour
3 cups warm milk
3 eggs
pinch or two of nutmeg
3/4 cup shredded fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3/4 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
salt to taste

Have all your ingredients right next to you by the stove. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour then the warm milk until smooth. Remove from heat and quickly whisk in the eggs, nutmeg and 1/2 cup each of the shredded cheeses; reserving 1/2 cup.

Pour the Béchamel Sauce over the layer of eggplant in the casserole dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Cover with aluminum foil. Place in the heated oven and bake 45 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and bake until top is lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to set for at least 5-10 minutes.

Slice and serve. Makes 6-8 servings…Enjoy!


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