For the past 20+ years I have made this version of moussaka every summer when we have an abundance of eggplants. It can be made in one large (very large) dish to serve a crowd. I spread it out into three casserole dishes, one for now, two for the freezer. It doesn’t fit the category of quick and easy but it can be done in steps over the course of two days. First, slice the eggplant and while you are baking it, make the meat sauce. Refrigerate these two components overnight. The next day, prepare the bechamel sauce, grate the Parmesan, assemble the casseroles and bake. A traditional moussaka is made with ground lamb, but if you don’t like lamb, or your supermarket doesn’t carry it, substitute lean ground beef or turkey. Like many hearty casseroles, it tastes even better the next day. Serve it with, you guessed it, a Greek salad.
Serves 15 to 18
- 5 lb eggplant, strips of skin removed, cut crosswise into ½” slices
- 6 T olive oil, divided
- 2 ½ lb ground lamb, turkey or beef
- 5 large onions, chopped fine
- ½ cup minced fresh parsley leaves
- 2-6 ounce cans tomato paste
- 3 c dry red wine
- 1 ½ T cinnamon
- 1 T salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 ½ c dry bread crumbs
- 1 ½ c freshly grated Parmesan
For the topping
- 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
- ½ c all-purpose flour
- 6 c milk (low-fat is fine)
- 2 T freshly grated nutmeg
- 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1-15 oz container ricotta cheese
- Preheat oven to 425°F. On baking sheets covered with oiled aluminum foil arrange the eggplant slices in one layer, brush them lightly with 4 T of the oil and bake them, covered with foil in batches in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes.
- While the eggplant is baking, in a large heavy skillet cook the ground meat over medium heat , stirring and breaking up the lumps, until it is no longer pink. With a slotted spoon transfer it to paper towels to drain, discard the fat remaining in the skillet.
- In the skillet cook the onions in the remaining 2 T oil over medium high heat, stirring until softened, stir in the meat, the parsley, the tomato paste, the wine, the cinnamon, salt and pepper. Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for about twenty minutes or until thickened slightly.
- Sprinkle 2 T of the bread crumbs over the bottom of an oiled roasting pan, 16 by 10 by 2 ½ inches, arrange one layer of the eggplant slices next. Spread one third of the meat mixture on top of the eggplant and sprinkle it with one third of the Parmesan and one third of the remaining bread crumbs.
- Layer the remaining eggplant slices, meat mixture, Parmesan, and bread crumbs in the same manner, starting with the eggplant and ending with the bread crumbs.
- For the topping: In a heavy saucepan melt the butter over moderately low heat, and the flour, and cook the roux, whisking for 3 minutes. Add the milk in a stream, whisking, and whisk in the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking, and simmer it, stirring until it is thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly and whisk in the eggs and ricotta.
- Pour the topping evenly over the moussaka and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is golden. Let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.