Moussaka, a Greek comfort food comparable to the American recipe for shepherd’s pie, is traditionally made with beef or lamb, or a mix of both, simmered in a tomato sauce seasoned with onions and garlic and herbs. The seasoned meat is layered with slices of eggplant and a béchamel topping to create a rich, creamy, full-bodied main course. In Greece, moussaka is served on special occasions as well as for a simple daily meal at local taverns.
Many of the traditional forms of moussaka include a layer of cooked potatoes. My version is a simpler one and without potatoes. I bake the eggplant slices rather than fry them. Think of the moussaka as a three-part process.
The tomato meat sauce is slowly simmered with onions and garlic and a touch of cinnamon. The second step is to bake or fry the eggplant slices. After slicing the eggplant, place it in a colander, salt the slices, and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes to draw out the moisture. I place the eggplant slices in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake the eggplant for about 20 minutes until tender. While the meat sauce is simmering and the eggplant is baking, you can prepare the creamy yogurt topping. I substitute yogurt and whole egg mixture with a pinch of nutmeg and cheese in place of the traditional french béchamel. The yogurt sauce rises and puffs up while baking and browning in the oven and adds a delicate light layer to the top of the casserole. I add a grated cheese such as parmesan or gruyere and some feta.
You can make this moussaka casserole and put it in the freezer for a later date. It will also last for a couple of days in the refrigerator and the leftovers only improve in a day or two. Check out my pastitsio, a similar greek lasagna recipe here.