Whether you’ve had moussaka before or this is a first time experience, you’re going to LOVE this authentic moussaka recipe with it’s incredible depth of flavor and luxuriously creamy bechamel sauce topping!
Sun-kissed white stone buildings juxtaposed against a sea of sapphire blue, the sound of old church bells chiming through the air, ancient ruins, a rich and intriguing history…..ah, Greece! Whether you’ve already been there or are still waiting, planning, dreaming…..why wait to enjoy it? Come experience Greece through your tastebuds and make this delicious authentic Moussaka recipe!
This dish was requested by one of our readers, Bethany in Michigan. She wrote in to request an excellent moussaka recipe that she could make for her family and friends and we’re confident you are all going to enjoy this as much as we do!
I’m an avid gardener and love growing all kinds of unusual and beautiful varieties of heirloom vegetables. Eggplants are one of those vegetables that are aesthetically stunning and come in a rainbow of varieties. I was never able to grow them successfully in Washington State (not hot enough) where I lived after moving to the U.S., but I’ve been growing them since moving to the South where they flourish in the hot sun. And one of things I always look forward to making when it’s eggplant season is this scrumptious moussaka.
What is Moussaka?
Moussaka is a popular and traditional Greek dish that features eggplant layered with seasoned ground meat, a rich tomato-based sauce, and often a layer of béchamel sauce on top.
This moussaka recipe is mostly authentic with a couple of twists for added flavor. Traditional moussaka uses ground lamb while most modern versions use ground beef. I took culinary license to add the additional twist of halving the ground beef with mild ground sausage. This added a wonderful flavor dimension to the dish. I took measures to optimize the flavors every step of the way while retaining the dish’s authentic integrity.
Many very traditional versions of moussaka use a layer of potatoes. Most modern versions do not which is a shame. I added the potatoes in order to create a more complete meal and they really are a great addition.
True to its traditional roots with some added flavor, this moussaka recipe will impress your dinner guests including any native Greek who may happen to come to dinner!
Can You Make Moussaka Ahead of Time?
Yes! The entire dish can be assembled a day or two in advance, kept refrigerated and then baked in the oven before serving. It’s a perfect time-saving dish for dinner parties and potlucks.
Can You Freeze Moussaka?
Yes! This moussaka recipe can be fully assembled and frozen for up to a month. No need to thaw it first, put it straight into the oven while frozen and simply increase the baking time by 20-25 minutes. Your dinner guests will never guess they’re eating a previously frozen meal and will be showering you with compliments over your fabulously-tasting meal!
Let’s get started!
Moussaka is definitely a labor of love. It isn’t hard to make at all, but it does involve multiple steps and does take time to make. The good news however is that moussaka is a prime example of a dish that can be made well in advance and then simply popped in the oven before serving. More on that below.
Step 1: Make the Meat Sauce
Finely dice the onions and garlic. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil and brown the ground beef and sausage until no pink remains. Add the onions and garlic and continue to cook until the onions are soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, all the seasonings, the bay leaf, and the wine. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and allow it to simmer for another 10 minutes, or almost all of the liquid is absorbed. This is important or the casserole will be too watery. Allow the sauce to cool, and then stir in the beaten egg.
Step 2: Prep the Eggplant and Potatoes
Select two large potatoes and 2-3 eggplants, depending on size. I only ended up needing two eggplants.
Peel and slice the potatoes 1/4 inch thick. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and boil the potato slices for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent them from cooking further. Set aside.
Using a potato peeler, peel strips of the eggplant peel off in a striped pattern. The peel on eggplants is very tough, even when fully cooked and it is difficult to cut through with a fork. Eggplant peel also becomes bitter. Peeling most of it off while leaving stripes yields tender eggplant that still retains a pretty appearance of the shiny purple peel. Cut the eggplants into 1/4 inch slices.
Lay the slices out in single layer on paper towels, sprinkle lightly with salt, and set aside for 30 minutes to draw out the moisture. This will help prevent the final dish from being too watery.
Heat a skillet over high heat, add some of the olive oil and fry a batch of eggplant slices on both sides until lightly browned. Place the slices on fresh paper towels to soak up the oil. (Again, this is important to prevent the final dish from being too soupy). Repeat with remaining eggplant slices.
Step 3: Assemble the Moussaka
Grease a 13X9 inch casserole dish. Next we’re going to start layering.
Lay the potatoes in the casserole dish, slightly overlapping them. Next place a layer of eggplant slices over the potatoes, slightly overlapping them.
Next, spread the meat mixture evenly on top of the eggplant slices.
Place a final layer of eggplant slices on top of the meat mixture.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Save the egg whites for a different use. We’re only using the yolks.
Next we’re going to make that glorious, luxurious Bechamel Sauce!
Step 4: Make the Bechamel Sauce
Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium-high heat and whisk in the flour until no clumps remain. Continue whisking for another minute. While continually whisking, gradually add the milk. Then add the salt, nutmeg and Parmesan cheese. Whisk to break up and dissolve any clumps.
Slowly bring the sauce to a boil and reduce the heat, all the while continuing to whisk to prevent the sauce from burning on the bottom.
Once the sauce has thickened, continue to simmer the sauce, while whisking, for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the sauce to cool.
Once the sauce has mostly cooled, whisk in the egg yolks.
Spread the bechamel sauce evenly over the final layer of eggplant slices.
Bake the moussaka uncovered in a oven preheated to 350 degrees F for 60 minutes. Remove it from the oven and let it stand for 15 minutes before serving. This will give it time to absorb any excess liquid.
Look at the gorgeous golden-brown bechamel topping!
Your homemade moussaka is ready!
For more delicious Greek-inspired dishes, be sure to try our:
- Greek-Style Grilled Asparagus Salad with Tomatoes & Feta
- Slow Cooker Greek Chicken
- Greek Meatballs
- Greek Lemon Chicken
- Greek Orzo Salad
- Greek Burgers
- Greek Einkorn Salad
- Homemade Greek Yogurt
- Greek Seasoning
- Tzatziki Sauce
- Pulled Pork Gyros
- 2 large eggplants , peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2 large potatoes , peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 pound lean ground beef
- 1/2 pound bulk pork sausage (click link for our homemade sausage recipe!)
- 2 onions , finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 16 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 egg beaten
- Bread crumbs for bottom of casserole dish
- For the Bechamel Sauce:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 egg yolks
- Place the eggplant slice in a single layer on paper towels, sprinkle lightly with salt, and set aside for 30 minutes to draw out the moisture. Heat a skillet over high heat, add some of the olive oil and fry a batch of eggplant slices on both sides until lightly browned. Place the slices on fresh paper towels to soak up the oil. Repeat with remaining eggplant slices.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the potato slices. Boil for 5 minutes, drain, and rinse with cold water to prevent further cooking.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil and brown the ground beef and sausage until no pink remains. Add the onions and garlic and continue to cook until the onions are soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, all the seasonings, the bay leaf, and the wine. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and allow it to simmer for another 10 minutes, or almost all of the liquid is absorbed. This is important or the casserole will be too watery. Allow the sauce to cool, and then stir in beaten egg.
- To make the bechamel sauce, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and use a wire whisk to blend it with the butter. Continue whisking for another 1-2 minutes. Gradually add the milk while continually whisking to prevent lumps. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add the Parmesan cheese, salt and nutmeg. Continue whisking until all clumps have dissolved (if you haven't caught on to the trend yet, this sauce requires a lot of whisking!). Continue to whisk (there we go again!) the sauce until it thickens and has simmered for about 3 minutes. Turn off heat and remove the saucepan from the burner. Allow the sauce to cool for about 20 minutes. Then whisk in the egg yolks until thoroughly blended.
- Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle a thin, even layer of fine bread crumbs on the bottom of the dish (this will help absorb the liquid from the vegetables). Arrange a layer of slightly overlapping potatoes on the bottom of the baking dish. Next add a layer of eggplant slices, slightly overlapping them. Evenly spread out the meat sauce on top. Add another layer of eggplant slices and even top with the béchamel sauce.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and bake, uncovered, for 1 hour.
- Remove the moussaka and allow it to sit for 15 minutes before serving to allow the liquid in the bottom of the dish to absorb.
Originally published on The Daring Gourmet January 13, 2013