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Moussaka

I have a very special place in my heart for moussaka. Almost four years ago, I made my very first trip to visit my Chief Culinary Consultant in DC for the weekend. I got there on a Friday in the early evening, and after spending some time catching up, we decided it was time to grab some dinner. There was a fabulous little Greek restaurant within walking distance of his apartment that he had raved to me about, so we decided to go there. I pored over the menu, not able to make up my mind between all of the dishes – they all sounded so good! My CCC recommended the moussaka, which I had never had, so that’s what I ordered. The layers of potato, eggplant, spiced beef and béchamel sauce melted in my mouth – so many different flavors and texture, and they all melded together so beautifully. I was so happy that I took his recommendation; it remains one of the best meals I’ve ever had. After all these years, I finally made this incredibly special meal at home!

This Greek-style lasagna casserole is such a warm, cozy comfort food. It does take a bit of time to assemble and bake, but it’s one of those kitchen projects that don’t feel tedious, but rather enables you to truly enjoy the process of putting together a fabulous home-cooked meal.

This dish will always remind me of that very first weekend spent in DC with my Chief Culinary Consultant, and it will always make my heart and my belly smile.

One year ago: Sea Salt Caramels with Vanilla Bean
Two years ago: Banana Nut Bread
Five years ago: Hershey’s Best Brownies

Moussaka

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes

Ingredients:

2¼ pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into ½-inch rounds
½ cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 pounds lean ground beef
16 ounces tomato puree
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
Salt and pepper
1 egg white, lightly beaten
5 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
5 tablespoons plain breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2¼ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch rounds

For the White Sauce:
3 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and white pepper, to taste
5 tablespoons heavy cream
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

Directions:

1. Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and let drain in a colander for 1 hour. Rinse, squeeze out any excess water and pat dry.

2. Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant and cook, turning occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until lightly browned on both sides (if you don't have a pan big enough, do this in two batches). Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon or spatula and drain on paper towels.

3. Reduce the heat to low and add the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil to the pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is softened. Increase the heat to medium, add the ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat with a spoon, for about 10 minutes, or until browned. Add the tomato puree, allspice, and sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and let cool, then fold in the egg white and parsley.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the white sauce. Place the milk in a small saucepan and bring to barely a boil, then remove from the heat. Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, then stir in the flour and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth. Return the sauce to medium heat and simmer, whisking constantly, for 10 to 15 minutes, until thickened and smooth. Remove from the heat, and whisk in the nutmeg, salt and pepper.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 10x15-inch lasagna pan with butter and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the bread crumbs. Cover the base of the dish with the potato slices, overlapping them slightly. Spread half of the meat mixture on top and sprinkle with half of the Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of the remaining bread crumbs. Cover with the eggplant slices, overlapping them slightly. Spread the remaining meat mixture on top, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese and the remaining breadcrumbs. (At this point, the dish may be covered and frozen. Thaw before baking.)

6. Whisk the cream and egg yolks into the white sauce and spread it evenly over the surface of the dish. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

(Recipe adapted from Vefa's Kitchen)

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42 Responses to “Moussaka”

  1. Anita at Hungry Couple on September 19, 2012 at 12:18 am

    Moussaka is also a big favorite of ours but I’ve never attempted it at home. Every time I look at a recipe for it I start to think it’s too tedious and then Brian says lets go to the Greek restaurant and order it there and I say OK. :)

    Reply

  2. Tracey on September 19, 2012 at 12:38 am

    Awwww sweet story, I love it! I’ve never actually heard of moussaka, but all of the components sound wonderful. It seems like the perfect comfort food!

    Reply

  3. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes on September 19, 2012 at 1:55 am

    Moussaka is my hubby’s favorite, too! He always orders it at this all natural Greek restaurant we love to go to. I definitely will have to try this…my husband thanks you in advance :)

    Reply

  4. gary on September 19, 2012 at 3:46 am

    My favorite comfort food. Mine substitutes lamb, adds cinammon and white wine and adds parmesan to the sauce. I like that you cut the eggplant in rounds rather than planks. Sometimes i make a “lazy mans” version where i just dice it.

    Love your blog!

    Gary

    Reply

  5. Kevin (Closet Cooking) on September 19, 2012 at 7:23 am

    That moussaka is looking tasty! I can’t wait to make my first batch of moussaka this fall!

    Reply

  6. Keisha on September 19, 2012 at 7:34 am

    I’ve had moussaka twice….once at a Greek festival and once a a local Greek restaurant. Both times it was excellent and one of the warmest and most comfortable things ive ever eaten. I don’t know why I never thought to try to make it at home but now I have too especially with colder weather coming in. I can’t wait!

    Reply

  7. Dea on September 19, 2012 at 7:37 am

    This is the favourite meal of my brother-in-law. Always reminds me of him! :-)

    Reply

  8. Lori on September 19, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Love the recipe and the story behind it. Looks great! It is one of my favorites too.

    Reply

  9. Jeri Barry on September 19, 2012 at 7:58 am

    This sounds fantastic. Much more interesting and flavorful than the recipe I am currently using. Can’t wait to try it!

    Reply

  10. Shelby in NC on September 19, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Is there anything you haven’t made? You inspire me! I can’t wait to see what is next! I’m an old cook looking up to a much younger one-You. Love learning from you with every post. Thanks.

    Reply

  11. Villy @ For the love of Feeding on September 19, 2012 at 8:41 am

    As a Greek I have to tell you that this moussaka looks divine!! Perfectly layered and cooked! Yummy!

    Reply

  12. Liz @ Tip Top Shape on September 19, 2012 at 10:19 am

    This is one of my favorite things. Ever. Fantastic recipe!!

    Reply

  13. Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet on September 19, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Greek, cheesy, potatoes, bechamel sauce… Oh yeah. It’s happening for dinner tonight.

    Reply

  14. natalie on September 19, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    i’ve never had moussaka, looks delicious but always reminds me of that old SNL skit…. ;)

    Reply

  15. icakepops on September 19, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    I’ve had moussaka at a diner and liked it but this one looks heavenly!

    Reply

  16. Muffin on September 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    I’ve been wanting to try this ever since I moved to Europe!! :D maybe I’ll try this one :B

    Reply

  17. Tamara on September 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    I have never tried moussaka, but your recipe is the 1st I’ve ever seen that tempts me to try making it. I’ve been craving lasagna and this seems to be just a side step dish from traditional lasagna. :)

    Reply

  18. Carrie on September 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Oh goodness. Next thing I know, you’ll be doing a pastitsio recipe… and I might just have to curl up into a little ball of happy and die.

    Reply

  19. ilectra on September 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Hey!Since you’re trying greek recipes ,there’s just one dessert you should definitely try, it’s called “galaktompoyreko”. One of the best Greek desserts,trust me, i’m Greek!

    Reply

  20. Kelly on September 19, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    What is the name of the Greek restaurant and where in DC is it? My husband and I go to a FABULOUS Greek restaurant in Old Town Alexandria.

    Reply

    • Michelle on September 25th, 2012 at 11:27 am

      Hi Kelly, The name of the restaurant is Vasilis. It’s in Gaithersburg, MD in the Kentlands neighborhood. Definitely try it!

      Reply

  21. Vicki @ WITK on September 19, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    This sounds delicious! I wonder if it would be any good with ground turkey instead of beef?

    Reply

    • Michelle on September 25th, 2012 at 11:28 am

      Hi Vicki, I don’t see why not. I used pretty lean ground beef; with all of the flavor and moisture, I think you could use ground turkey and not lose too much flavor.

      Reply

  22. dkny on September 20, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Your recipes are always so enticing. I am going out tomorrow morning and buying some eggplant. I’ve made moussaka before but it didn’t have a layer of potatoes. I think they will sop up some of the grease from the meat and the eggplant. My last attempt was a little too greasy. I keep kosher and will use milk substitute in the bechamel and skip the Parmesan but I’m sure it will be great. You listed one egg white and some parsley in the ingredients and I don’t see where they are added in the instructions. Can you please clarify!

    Reply

    • Michelle on September 25th, 2012 at 11:32 am

      Hi there, My apologies for the oversight – the egg white and parsley get folded into the ground beef mixture. I have edited the recipe above to clarify. Enjoy!

      Reply

      • dkny on September 25th, 2012 at 11:40 am

        Thanks for the info. I made it a few days ago (couldn’t wait) and I figured the egg white and parsley got mixed into the meat. I did wait for the meat to cool so it wouldn’t scramble the whites. It is in the freezer waiting for me to make the white sauce before baking. I have to decide which non dairy products to substitute for the milk and heavy cream.

        Reply

  23. jana on September 20, 2012 at 3:11 am

    where does the one egg white fit in??

    Reply

    • Michelle on September 25th, 2012 at 11:33 am

      Hi Jana, The egg white gets folded into the beef mixture. I apologize for the omission; the recipe has been updated and now includes those directions.

      Reply

  24. Manali on September 20, 2012 at 4:18 am

    Never had moussaka before, but I’m really tempted to give a shot at this one. It look mouth-watering and gives me a warm homely feeling. Gonna make it soon!

    P.S : I love your blog. You inspire me so much. Look forward to your new posts every single time. Lots of love. :D

    Reply

  25. Becky on September 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I’ve never tried mousakka before but this recipe sounds really yummy!

    Reply

  26. morri on September 23, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    I have to say that this recipe was a bit sloppy :-( I decided to make the moussaka without reviewing the instructions carefully first – BIG mistake. My moussaka was halfway done, when I realized that the list of ingredients mentions “1 egg white, lightly beaten” and “5 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley” without saying where they go (and I saw that other people had already asked about that in the comments). I frantically googled some other recipes, and found one that looked very similar. According to that one, the parsley is added to the meat-and-tomato mixture. After the mixture is ready, it should be put aside to cool, and then the beaten egg white should be mixed into the meat (it cannot be too hot, so the egg white would not cook!)

    And another thing: the white sauce took forever to thicken – way over 20 minutes and closer to 30. I suspect that it was the shortage of flour; I usually add one heaping tablespoon per one glass of milk when I make the Béchamel sauce.

    Reply

  27. morri on September 24, 2012 at 4:13 am

    I have to say that this recipe was a bit sloppy :( My moussaka was halfway done when I realized that the list of ingredients mentioned “1 egg white” and “5 tablespoons chopped parsley” without saying where they go (and people had already asked about that in the comments). I frantically googled other moussaka recipes, and found one that looked very similar. According to that one, the parsley goes into the meat-and-tomato mixture. When the mixture is ready, it should be put aside to cool, and then the beaten egg white should be added to the meat (I cannot be too hot, so the egg white wouldn’t cook!).

    Also: the white sauce took forever to thicken, more like 30 minutes than 20. I suspect it might have had too little flour – I usually add one heaping tablespoon per one glass of milk when I’m making the Bechamel sauce.

    Reply

    • Michelle on September 25th, 2012 at 11:35 am

      Hi Morri, My apologies for the issue with the egg white and parsley. I have edited the recipe so it is now correct, but yes, it does go into the meat mixture.

      Reply

  28. Jenny on September 24, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Just made it!! I assumed you put the egg white and parsely in the meat mixture right before you started doing the layers in the lasanga dish, so that’s what I ended up doing (they weren’t listed in the instructions). It’s okay though! It turned out perfect, my family loved it! My dad and sister weren’t really sure about it at first, but they loved it and thought I should add it to our rotation (I’m 16, and usually make dinner for my family, your site helps a lot!)..! I started really early so I could give myself some times to do all the prep, plus I knew there was an extra 50 minutes of cooking and 15 minutes (I could only waited 10 minutes, my family couldn’t wait longer… me either) of cooling, so I was prepared. Your layers definitely turned out better then mine, plus I think I cut my potatoes too thick, BUT it photographed well (similar to a lasagna I guess) and tasted great. Thanks again for the fantastic recipe!

    Reply

    • Michelle on September 25th, 2012 at 11:34 am

      Hi Jenny, I apologize for the error in the recipe; I have since fixed it, but you are correct – the egg white and parsley went into the beef mixture. I’m so happy to hear that you and your family enjoyed the moussaka!

      Reply

  29. morri on September 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    It’s all right. Luckily, I managed to figure out what went where, eventually :) My family loved the dish, and everybody kept emphasizing how tasty it was (you know how it is with people for whom you cook on a regular basis – if they say anything nice about their dinner, then it’s probably marvelous). Well worth the effort, indeed.

    Reply

  30. Transportation Services New Jersey on September 25, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Always looking to try new recipes and new ideas… never made moussaka before, but I am always up to try something new!

    Reply

  31. Ashley on September 27, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    By “tomato puree” do you mean tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes or something else completely?

    Reply

  32. Amanda on October 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Made this and loved it! Worth the time, and my kids loved it too! I added a bit more garlic, salt and pepper. Next time I will add a bit more allspice to the meat. This recipe is a keeper!

    Reply

  33. Mary @ mary mary quite contrary on October 15, 2012 at 9:53 am

    One of my all time favourite meals ! This recipe looks so authentic and delicious. In my college days, we used to frequent an out of the way Greek restaurant, where they provided plates to smash in the traditional dancing. What fun it was, good times, and where my love for this dish was created. I haven’t found a recipe to match my memories, but this one sounds spot on. I will surely be making this for my family soon !

    Reply

  34. Nancy Larson on April 4, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Years ago I took a holiday to Greece n fell in love with their food! I am so excited to make this at home. It’s one of my favourite places in the world with some of my favourite dishes! Thanks for sharing it with us!

    Reply

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