Looking for a dinner idea? This Greek moussaka is a crowd-pleaser. It contains layers of potatoes, sauce and eggplant and is topped off with a generous layer of bechamel.
Prior to the pandemic, our city used to host a very well-attended Greek festival. My family and I would go every year, and we spent $$$$ on food because we wanted to eat EVERYTHING. From yahni to dolmades, to gyros to spanakopita, we could not get enough of the food.
One dish that we always buy is the moussaka. It’s a lasagna-type dish, but the layers are made of pan-seared potatoes, roasted eggplant, and a meat sauce. And rather than mozzarella and ricotta cheese, the moussaka is topped with a very thick layer of rich bechamel. Oh yeah!
I remember that the moussaka always was the most expensive dish we bought (next to the pastitsio). I think it was something like $10 a slice. While I happily paid for that and was glad to support our local Greek community, I haven’t found a moussaka that could compare to the ones at the Greek Festival.
As a result, I turned to my online friend Elly. She and I have “known” each other for a good 10+ years now, and she is typically my go-to source for Greek food. We’ve made this recipe several times at home, and it’s always a hit. The one edit i made was to her bechamel. We thought that her version wasn’t firm enough, so I used the bechamel from my pastitsio recipe. After that one revision, my family was in love.
I am still waiting for the day we can have a Greek Festival again, but until then, I am content making this at home. Thanks, Elly, for your family recipe!
Husband’s rating: 4 out of 5
Addie’s rating: 4.5 out of 5
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
Eggplant and potato layers
- 2 large eggplants I used one giant one
- 2 large Russett/baking potatoes
- 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 1 and ½ pounds ground beef or lamb I used ground meatloaf mix (pork, beef, lamb)
- 2 cloves garlic minced (I used about 1 Tablespoon garlic powder)
- 6 Tablespoons tomato paste (just over half a can; save and freeze the other half)1
- 1 and ½ cups water
- 1 stick cinnamon note that this is one cinnamon stick; I don't know the equivalent if you are using ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice you can up this to ½ teaspoon if desired
- 2 bay leaves
- ⅓ cup chopped parsley I used 1 and ½ Tablespoons of dried parsley
- ½ cup (1 stick or 8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk I used 1%
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1 cup parmesan
- dash ground nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the eggplant
- If desired, you can peel the eggplants for a cleaner look (I leave the skin on). Slice the eggplants the long way, so they are about ⅓" thick. Sprinkle each slice with some salt and layer in a colander set over the sink. Allow the eggplants to rest about 30 minutes.
Make the meat sauce
- In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add in the onions and cook until translucent. Add the ground meat and cook until no longer pink. Drain the grease.
- Add in the garlic and the tomato paste and cook. Then add the water. Add in the cinnamon stick, bay leaves, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring everything to a boil and then turn down the heat to allow the mixture to simmer for 35-45 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line two or three large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
- Rinse the eggplants and pat them dry with a towel. Spread them out on your baking sheets and brush with olive oil. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in your preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Make the bechamel
- While the meat sauce is simmering and your eggplants are roasting, make the bechamel.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir constantly until a thick paste forms. Cook for 1 more minute. Slowly stream in the milk and continuously whisk until the mixture thickens to almost pudding consistency. Remove from the heat and add the beaten eggs and the cup of parmesan. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg. This sauce will be super thick. Set aside.
Prepare the potatoes
- Slice the potatoes lengthwise (not too thick). Heat up some oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add some potatoes (do not crowd them) and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Pan fry on both sides until they are translucent. Repeat with the remaining potato slices.
Assemble the moussaka
- Generously grease a large 9"x13" baking pan. Arrange the potatoes on the bottom.
- Add half of the eggplant slices on top, making sure to cover as much of the potatoes as possible.
- Add the entire batch of meat sauce on top (remember to discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaves!). Then top with the remaining eggplant slices.
- Pour the bechamel on top, smoothing out the top so no eggplant slices poke through.
- Bake in your preheated oven for 40 minutes or until the top is firm (you can also refrigerate this overnight and bake the following day - you may want to take the pan out at least an hour before baking to allow it come closer to room temperature). Allow the moussaka to rest for about 15-20 minutes before slicing into it.