Arguably, this is one of the top dishes known widely outside of Greece. It’s also one of the most iconic dishes served at all taverna’s and Greek restaurants worldwide.
Let me first give thanks to legendary Greek chef, Nikólaos Tselementés (Νικόλαος Τσελεμεντές), who is credited with propelling this delightful dish to the forefront of Greek cuisine.
Moussaka (μουσακάς) is a casserole style dish, resembling that of pastitsio. It’s eggplant layered with a perfectly flavored meat mixture and topped with the iconic béchamel sauce.
Now if you are not a fan of eggplant, this may be the dish you give a try - just to make sure you really are not a fan.
I know many people that are not big eggplant people, but like moussaka. The combinations of flavors work so well that the eggplant is not too overpowering.
Many countries have made their own versions. I know in places like Croatia and Macedonia, they sub out eggplant and use sliced potatoes (a version you can find in Greece as well).
Another thing I love about this dish is the uniqueness it brings to Greek food. What I mean by that is it is hard to find two places making it the say way (just like tzatziki).The main alterations occur with the spices that are mixed with the meat. Some people add a little of allspice and others substitute red wine for another liquid or use nothing at all.
Both Jane and I have made it a few different ways, but below is the one that we come back to again and again and is thus the go-to method.
Remember, if anything, use this as a base and experiment with your own flavor/spice combinations. Let us know if you come up with something amazing!!
καλή όρεξη! (Kali orexi – enjoy your meal!)
- 1 medium eggplant (peeled, cut into 1/2 inch thick lengthwise slices)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 onion (chopped)
- 1 1/2 tsp. tomato paste
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1/2 cup feta
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs (plus extra for lining baking pan)
- 1 to 1 1/2 cloves garlic (crushed)
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 pinch cinnamon
- For the Béchamel Sauce:
- 2 cups milk
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1/2 cup semolina
- Place sliced eggplant in a bowl with a mixture of water and salt, soak for 15min.
- Pre-heat oven to 350ºF
- Remove eggplant slices from bowl and place on baking tray. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 10-12min, or until tender. Remove and set aside.
- In the pan, add onion and olive oil, cook for 5min or until onions are tender.
- Add beef to pan and brown.
- Once the meat has a nice brown color add: tomato paste, red wine, cinnamon, garlic, and salt and pepper.
- Simmer until all liquid has reduced.
- Once the liquid has gone, mix in bread crumbs and feta cheese. Remove from heat.
- Sprinkle a light layer of bread crumbs on the bottom of an oiled baking dish.
- Line bottom of baking pan with ½ of the eggplant slices, cut where needed to create an even layer that covers the entire bottom of baking pan.
- Add all of the meat mixture over eggplant slices, spread evenly.
- Top meat mixture with remaining eggplant slices, cut to make top even if needed.
- -Bechamel Sauce:
- Heat milk in the pan.
- Stir in butter and melt.
- Once butter has melted, slowly begin stirring in the semolina flour.
- Continue stirring until all flour has been added and it becomes thick.
- Once thick, remove from stove and pour béchamel over eggplant top.
- Spread béchamel evenly - completely covering the top.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon and feta
- Bake for 30min at 350ºF, until golden brown