Layered with ground lamb and eggplant, moussaka is a classic Greek comfort food. Moussaka is to Greece what lasagna is to Italy. The best meals I’ve eaten in Greece have included moussaka. It is probably my favorite dish to order when dining in a Greek restaurant and I often use it as a gauge as to whether the place has good food; if their moussaka is good chances are their other food is good as well. But moussaka is easy to make at home so there isn’t any need to wait to dine in a Greek restaurant to enjoy it.
This recipe, from Williams Sonoma, lives up to those versions I’ve enjoyed in Greece. For me, the secret to a good moussaka is a tasty béchamel sauce and this version, with just a touch of grated nutmeg, doesn’t disappoint. I enjoy the taste of lamb and am fortunate to have ready access to it. If you prefer, or can’t find lamb, you can substitute ground beef or another ground meat. The dish won’t be quite as authentic but it will taste good just the same.
2 medium eggplants, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices
7 tablespoon olive oil, divided plus additional for brushing
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups whole milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
- Preheat an oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.
- Brush the slices on both sides with 5 tablespoons of the olive oil and then season with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the pepper.
- Roast until the eggplant is tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets as necessary to ensure even cooking.
- While the eggplant is roasting, set a medium sized saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter.
- Add the flour, bay leaf and nutmeg and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
- Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Season with the remaining salt and pepper.
- Let the sauce cool for 15 minutes, then remove and discard the bay leaf.
- Whisk in the egg and 2 tablespoons of the cheese.
- Set the béchamel sauce aside.
- Warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 3-1/2 quart Dutch oven set over medium heat.
- Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and warm the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Add the ground lamb and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 8 minutes. Drain off the excess fat.
- Add the garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne and sugar and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper if needed, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more. Transfer the meat sauce to the bowl with the onion.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 375°.
- Lightly brush the bottom and sides of the Dutch oven with olive oil.
- Place a single layer of the eggplant slices on the bottom of the pot.
- Spread one-fourth of the meat sauce on top.
- Repeat with 4 more layers of eggplant and 3 more layers of meat sauce, ending with the eggplant.
- Pour the béchamel sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
- Transfer the pot to the oven and bake until the moussaka is browned and bubbly on top, about 40 minutes.
- Remove from the oven.
- Let the moussaka rest for 20 minutes before serving.