Classic Greek Moussaka

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    2 hrs 45 mins
Ratings (28)

Classic Moussaka is a casserole made by layering eggplant with a spiced meat filling and then topping it off with a creamy béchamel sauce that is baked to golden perfection. It is perhaps the most widely recognized of all Greek dishes and was made famous by the legendary Greek chef Nicholas Tselementes.

This Moussaka eggplant recipe is the traditional Moussaka rendition; however you can also layer in potatoes, zucchini or other vegetables you may prefer. It is hearty and filling so you won't need many side dishes.

While it can be time consuming to prepare, I think you will find that once complete it is a very worthwhile endeavor.

What You'll Need

  • Vegetables
  • 3 to 4 eggplants, about 4 lbs. total
  • 1 lb. potatoes
  • 8 large eggs, separated and whites lightly beaten (reserve yolks for bechamel)
  • 2 cups plain breadcrumbs
  • Meat Filling
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (or lamb)
  • 2 large onions, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Béchamel Sauce
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk, warmed
  • 8 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • For Assembly
  • 1 cup grated Kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese

How to Make It

Prep the Vegetables

  1. Using a sharp peeler, partially peel the eggplants, leaving strips of peel about 1-inch wide around the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch slices. Place the eggplant slices in a colander and salt them liberally. Cover them with an inverted plate that is weighted down by a heavy can or jar. Place the colander in the sink and let it sit for at least 15 to 20 minutes, preferably an hour. The salt not only draws out the moisture but also helps to remove some of the bitterness of the eggplant.
  1. Peel the potatoes and boil them whole until they are just done, about 10 minutes. They should not get too soft, just cooked enough so that they no longer crunch. Drain, cool and cut them into 1/4-inch slices. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and lightly grease. Add a splash of water to the egg whites and beat them lightly with a fork. Place breadcrumbs on a flat plate.
  3. Rinse the eggplant slices and dry with paper towels. Dip the eggplant slices in the beaten egg whites and then dredge them in the breadcrumbs, coating both sides. Place breaded eggplant slices on the foil-lined baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes, turning them over once during cooking.
  4. When eggplant is finished cooking, lower the oven temperature to 350 F.

Make the Meat Filling

  1. In a large sauté pan, brown the ground beef (or lamb) until the pink color disappears. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add wine to pan and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit before adding cinnamon, allspice, parsley, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and sugar. Allow the sauce to simmer, uncovered, for approximately 15 minutes so that excess liquid can evaporate. It should be a drier, chunkier, tomato sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Make the Béchamel Sauce

  1. In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste. Let the flour cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.
  2. Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil.
  3. Remove from heat, and stir in beaten egg yolks and pinch of nutmeg. Return to heat and stir until sauce thickens.

Assemble the Moussaka

  1. Lightly grease a large deep baking pan (lasagna pan). Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with breadcrumbs. Leaving a 1/4-inch space around the edges of the pan, place a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Top with a layer of eggplant slices.
  2. Add meat sauce on top of eggplant layer and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle once again with 1/4 of the grated cheese.
  3. Pour the béchamel sauce over being sure to allow the sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Smooth the béchamel on top with a spatula and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Bake for 45 minutes or until béchamel sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

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.