Greek Moussaka Recipe
Happy Pi Day!! March 14 is especially noteworthy because it's the day that admissions decisions are released for the newest class of MIT students. During my year of applying, one of the prompts was, "We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do for the pleasure of it." In response, I wrote about how I liked to bake on Saturday mornings. Fun fact: I had a baking business during high school; I'd bake brownies and cookies and muffins and mini nutella cheesecakes over the weekend and peddle them until sellout during the week. Shoutout to momma lee for fronting all my expenses.
Since you’re ovens will be on anyway, and you’ll probably crave something savory after all the pie you’ll eat today, here's a recipe for Greek moussaka for a change of pace.
Heads up that this is a pretty time intensive recipe and it feeds many mouths. I made this over the summer right before I flew out for a weekend trip and there is still moussaka left in my freezer. It definitely helps to have a hand in the kitchen; having the meat AND béchamel sauce, eggplant AND potato prep going on simultaneously was overwhelming when I cooked this alone. You can see in the photos below that I used a mix of both white and purple eggplants, and purple potatoes instead of regular russet potatoes. Was lowkey disappointed that purple potatoes don't taste any different from white potatoes (perhaps I’ll give it an Asian twist and use ube next time).
Moussaka Recipe (from The Spruce)
eggplant + potatoes + chunky tomato meat sauce + cheesy béchamel sauce = party in your mouth
3-4 large eggplants, about 4 pounds
salt (this is for salting the eggplants, to draw out the bitterness & excess moisture)
1 lb potatoes
olive oil for greasing baking sheet
8 large egg whites, lightly beaten (save yolks for the béchamel sauce)
2 cups plain breadcrumbs (I omitted these and it turned out A-OK)
da meat sauce:
1.5 lb ground beef or lamb
2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine (I didn't have any on hand and honestly the recipe turned out fine)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup fresh parsley (or 2 tablespoons dried)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
salt & black pepper to taste
da béchamel sauce:
1 cup (aka 2 sticks) of unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk, warmed
8 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
pinch of ground nutmeg
Lynn's note: You can make this dish ahead but stop before making the béchamel sauce and refrigerate. Cook the béchamel sauce right before you intend to bake it.
My note: I didn't realize until after I finished making the dish that the potatoes were only used as a single base layer. Further googling shows that some moussaka recipes don't use potatoes at all, so if you're looking for a lower carb option and/or less prep, I'd skip the potato layer. I also omitted the breadcrumbs and it turned out a-okay.
- FOR THE EGGPLANTS: Partially peel 'em, leaving 1 inch-wide strips of peel around (to make them look pretty & to let the sauce penetrate better). Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch thick slices.
- Place the slices in a colander and salt them liberally. Cover them with a inverted plate that's weighted down by a heavy can or jan. Place the colander in a sink and let it sit for 15-20 minutes, preferably an hour. You'll come back to them after cooking the potatoes.
- FOR THE POTATOES: Boil them until just about done, about 10 minutes. They'll cook for longer in the casserole dish, so you wanna take them off the heat when they no longer crunch. Drain, cool, and set aside. The original author, Lynn Athan, recommends boiling before slicing into 1/4 inch-thick slices; I prefer slicing before boiling for slightly faster cook times.
- Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Line two baking sheets with foil and lightly grease with oil. Rinse and dry the eggplant slices, then dip them in the beaten egg whites and then into the breadcrumbs (which should be poured on a flat plate for easy coating) on both sides.
- Bake your breaded eggplant slices for 30 min, flipping over once during cooking. When done, lower oven temp to 350.
- FOR DA MEAT SAUCE: cook your ground meat until it's no longer pink, then add onion and sauté till translucent (about 5 min). Add garlic and cook for another minute. Your kitchen is gonna smell hella good.
- Add your wine and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit before adding the seasoning—cinnamon, allspice, parsley, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and sugar. Let the sauce simmer uncovered for a bit, to let the excess liquid evaporate; you're going for a drier, chunkier tomato sauce. Add salt & pepper to taste.
- FOR DA BECHAMEL: In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Once melted, whisk in your flour till it's a smooth paste. Let the flour cook for a minute but don't let it brown. Then slowly add warmed milk, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat till the sauce thickens, but do not let it boil. Remove from heat, and stir in beaten egg yolks & the pinch of nutmeg. Return the pan to the heat and stir until the sauce thickens some more. Set aside.
- FOR ASSEMBLY: Grease a deep baking pan and sprinkle a base of breadcrumbs. Leaving 1/4-inch of space around the edges of the pan, place your sliced potatoes down (there's only one layer of them). Top with a layer of baked eggplant slices. Then top with all of your meat sauce + sprinkle 1/4 of the grated cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant + more cheese. Pour the béchamel sauce, letting in fill in the border around the filling. Finish by sprinkling the remaining grated cheese on top!
- Baked for 45 minutes or until the béchamel is a nice golden brown. Allow it to cool for a bit before slicing and serving. Letting the moussaka set for a bit ensures that it doesn't completely fall apart when you first dig into it.
Prep time: 1.5 hours
Cook time: 50 mins
Total time: 2 hours 20 min
Yield: 16 servings