I only make this Greek Moussaka once or twice a year, always in the winter and served with a Greek salad. This meal is pretty simple since I’ve made it many, many times but as I often say – so many recipes, so little time.
When I feel bored with my dinner offerings I look at the world map for inspiration. Greece reminds me of my first trip there, of tadziki, souvlaki and this moussaka recipe.
I first visited Greece long before the internet was invented and before tadziki was on the shelf in every grocery store. While visiting I learned about traditional Greek dishes from a physical book, my Berlitz European Menu Reader. This tiny book was filled with essential dining vocabulary, culinary terms and as I recall, an overview of the typical dishes of each country. Our mission was to try as many of them as we could.
Moussaka was on that list.
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I remember that first moussaka. It was an open-air restaurant in Athens with live music and a view of the Parthenon in the distance.
Traditionally moussaka would be described as a layered meat dish with eggplant (called aubergines in Europe). The meat can be ground lamb or ground beef and the cooked mixture is layered between vegetable slices. Although eggplant is the most common some recipes call for zucchini or sliced potatoes.
The topping of moussaka is most commonly a thick béchamel sauce with added cheese and beaten eggs. As the moussaka bakes it creates a slightly firm, creamy topping. This starts with the same basic white sauce you would use to make homemade macaroni and cheese. Although you see many recipes for white sauce made with flour I have always made mine with cornstarch so it is naturally gluten free.
Variations for Greek Moussaka
For an easier version of moussaka you can avoid the layering process by chopping the vegetables before you sauté them. Simply fold them into the meat mixture and spread it all in the pan. With the creamy white sauce on top it will still look like traditional moussaka and have the same great taste.
There is also some variation among recipes for the topping. Although the white sauce with cheese is my personal favourite some recipes call for a mashed potato and cheese topping. The look of the finished dish is similar so if potatoes are popular in your house you might want to try that instead.
This recipe began from my little book of Greek Cookery, purchased on the island of Mykonos. Over time I have adjusted it a bit to the version I have posted here.
Let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed it. As they say in Greece, yamas!
A Travel Tale – Mykonos
From time to time I write a guest post for my friend Sue over at Travel Tales of Life. Here is a link to the one I wrote about our trip to Mykonos and it includes the nude beach story.
|1-2 zucchini, cut into thick slices|
|1 eggplant, cut into thick slices|
|oil for frying|
|2 tsp vegetable oil|
|1 large onion, finely chopped|
|2 garlic cloves, minced|
|1½ lbs ground beef or lamb|
|19 oz can diced, stewed tomatoes|
|1 Tbsp tomato paste|
|1 tsp dried oregano|
|1 tsp cinnamon|
|1 tsp salt|
|½ tsp ground pepper|
|¼ tsp ground allspice|
|1 egg, beaten|
|2 Tbsp dried or toasted GF breadcrumbs (optional)|
|1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)|
|¼ cup butter|
|2 Tbsp cornstarch|
|½ tsp salt|
|¼ tsp pepper|
|2 cups milk (1% or 2%)|
|½ lb cottage cheese|
|½ cup grated Parmesan cheese|
|¼ cup crumbled feta cheese|
|2 eggs, beaten|
- VEGETABLE LAYERS
- Heat oil in large sauté pan on medium-high heat and fry zucchini and eggplant slices in batches until browned, 3-4 minutes per side. Set aside.
- MEAT SAUCE
- Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add ground beef and cook the mixture, stirring to break up any lumps, until no longer pink.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Stir in egg, breadcrumbs and parsley. Set aside to cool. Can be prepared 2-3 days in advance or frozen.
- WHITE SAUCE
- In saucepan melt butter. Add cornstarch, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth and no lumps remain.
- When slightly thickened add half the milk and stir over medium heat until sauce thickens. Add the remaining milk and stir until thickened.
- Add cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, feta and eggs. Continue stirring until the sauce is smooth. Set aside.
- In a 9” x 13” baking pan layer in order:
- ½ of vegetable slices
- ½ meat mixture
- ½ vegetable slices
- ½ meat mixture
- white sauce
- Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 45 minutes or until the top is set and nicely browned. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.