Ah, casserole season. I don’t know what it is about this time of year that makes me want to layer a bunch of foods together into a large dish and bake them.
Moussaka is an eggplant casserole of various preparations and presentations. In the Middle East, Moussaka is a sauteed eggplant and tomato dish served cold; in Greece (as in this recipe) it is layered with meat and eggplants, then topped with a Béchamel sauce and served warm; in Turkey, it is not layered or topped with sauce, but served with rice pilaf; in the South Slavic states, it is layered with potatoes instead of eggplants, and topped with custard.
Looking for other casseroles? Here are some other casserole-like favorites:
Moussaka - Roasted Eggplant with Bechamel Sauce (Gluten-free, Primal, Keto-friendly)
3 large eggplants (about 3 lbs)
1 tbsp kosher salt, more to taste
¼ cup olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 lbs ground lamb or beef
3 tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups diced)
½ cup dry white wine
1 small handful chopped fresh parsley (about ¼ cup chopped)
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp dried oregano, crushed
½ tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp white rice flour + 2 tbsp all-purpose gluten-free flour
2 cups whole milk, warmed to room temperature
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
2 pinches black pepper
2 egg yolks
6oz kefalotiri or other hard cheese from sheep or goat milk (like manchego or pecorino romano), grated (about 1 cup grated)
1. Slice the tops from the eggplants, then slice lengthwise into ½” sheets. Liberally salt both sides of the eggplant sheets, then set aside for 30 minutes (prep the meat filling, Step #2, during this time); pat dry with paper towels or a clean towel. Brush each side of the eggplants with all but 1 tbsp of the olive oil, then place on a baking sheet lined with a wire rack. Broil near the top of the oven until browned, about 5 minutes, then remove. You may need to broil the eggplant in two batches, depending on how much space they take up.
2. Warm the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste, and saute until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and white wine, then simmer until the wine is no longer pungent, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the ground lamb, pepper, oregano, and ground cinnamon, then saute until the meat is browned, about 8 minutes, stirring often to break up any chunks. Season with salt to taste, then stir in the parsley and remove from heat.
3. Preheat the oven to 350F while you prepare the Béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then stir in the flour to create a roux; toast the roux until it is lightly golden and nutty smelling, about 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching. Reduce heat to medium-low, then slowly pour in the milk while whisking vigorously; take your time with this step to ensure the milk does not burn. Stir in the nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and continue to whisk until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes; the sauce should steam, but not actively simmer. Place the egg yolks in a bowl, then ladle in some of the Béchamel while vigorously whisking the yolks; whisk the tempered yolks into the Béchamel sauce. Finally, whisk in ½ of the grated cheese, then remove from heat and set aside.
4. Assemble your Moussaka by lining the bottom of a 9×13” casserole dish with a layer of eggplant sheets (you should use half of your eggplant in one layer); spoon over ½ of the meat mixture, then add another layer of eggplant and meat mixture. Pour the Béchamel sauce over the meat mixture, then spread evenly. Scatter the remaining ½ of the grated cheese, then transfer to the center of the oven. Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes, then remove from heat and cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving warm.