Moussaka, a quintessential dish of Greek cuisine, has a rich history that spans 100 years or more. It gained widespread recognition through Nicolaos Tselementes‘ 1910 cookbook, which introduced a recipe that combined French culinary influences with a balanced use of spices.
This version of moussaka features thinly sliced eggplant, either lightly fried in olive oil or roasted for a healthier option. The dish combines either pure beef or a blend of beef and pork mince, topped with a layer of bechamel sauce enriched with cheese and breadcrumbs.
Moussaka variations are also popular in other regions. In Turkey, it includes eggplant, onions, bell peppers, sliced tomatoes, and ground lamb, typically served with rice. The Egyptian version layers eggplant, green peppers, tomato sauce, and a mixture of ground lamb and beef. In Lebanon, moussaka consists of eggplant, chickpeas, potatoes, and a variety of spices such as garlic, cumin, and red peppers, usually served hot with couscous.
Ingredients for Classic Moussaka
- 2 kg eggplants
- 1 kg double minced beef
- 1 cup tomato juice
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 grated dry onion
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- Pinch of nutmeg and allspice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Half a cup of white wine (Muscat or Sabayas)
For the béchamel sauce
- 4 cups milk
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons semolina
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of nutmeg and pepper
For the topping
- 200 grams kefalograviera cheese
- 1 boiled egg
- Slice the eggplant thinly, drizzle with olive oil and grill until soft, turning occasionally.
- For the meat stuffing, heat half a cup of olive oil in a deep frying pan, sauté the onion until golden, then add the ground beef. Cook until browned, stirring occasionally.
- Deglaze with wine, allowing the alcohol to evaporate, then add tomato juice, tomato paste and spices. Simmer until liquid is absorbed.
- To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour, cornstarch, and semolina and whisk in the milk. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens. Add salt, sugar, nutmeg, pepper, half a cup of grated cheese, and a beaten egg yolk.
- Layer the breadcrumbs, eggplant, and cheese on a greased baking sheet.
- Mix the prepared meat with the cheese, remaining breadcrumbs and one beaten egg white. Spread this mixture on the eggplants.
- Cover with more eggplants and pour the béchamel sauce over them. Finish with a layer of cheese and breadcrumbs.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 30-45 minutes.
- Allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving.
Serve this classic moussaka with a fresh green salad for a complete meal.