Moussaka is usually considered a Greek dish although there are different versions of it to be found throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. The seasonings might differ a bit as well as the vegetables used. It might be served hot or cold, with or without the creamy cheese enhanced béchamel.
Whenever I make moussaka, I prefer preparing the meat sauce the day before because it just tastes so much better when the flavors have had the chance to meld.
2 tsp olive oil
1 3/4 - 2 lbs lean ground lamb or beef
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp allspice
1/2 cup dry red wine
15oz can crushed or pureed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Heat the olive oil in a large pot (with lid) over medium high heat. Cook the lamb or beef until it's nicely browned. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the onions and garlic. Continue to cook until the onions have softened.
Stir in the salt, oregano, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, and allspice. Cook for about 2 minutes while stirring, then pour in the wine and continue to cook another minute or two.
Stir in the tomatoes and add the bay leaves. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and allow the sauce to gently simmer for about an hour or so.
Check and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Remove from heat, stir in the parsley and allow to cool. Store in the refrigerator overnight or until you are ready to assemble the moussaka.
2 - 3 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic minced
2 large eggplant
Combine the olive oil and garlic in a small container and allow to fuse for at least 30 minutes or longer.
Wash, then slice the eggplant into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Place the slices in a single layer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Lightly brush the tops with the garlicky oil. If there's any oil left over, set that aside to grease the baking dish later.
Place the sheet into the middle of the oven and broil the slices until the tops are lightly browned. My oven has a Hi and Lo broiling setting. I used the Hi setting and it took about 12 minutes for the eggplant to be done.
Remove the eggplant from the oven and allow to cool.
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup flour
2 2/3 cups milk
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup pecorino romano
2 pinches nutmeg/mace
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk until you have a smooth mixture. Stir in the salt and cook, stirring until the sauce thickens; about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat.
Whisk a small amount of the hot sauce into the eggs, then whisk the egg mixture back into the béchamel. Stir in the cheese, reserving a tablespoon or so to sprinkle over the top of the casserole later. Stir in the nutmeg or mace and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease a 3 qt baking dish with any leftover garlic oil or use extra olive oil. Place a single layer of eggplant over the bottom of the dish and cover that with a layer of meat sauce. Repeat and continue until all of the eggplant and meat sauce has been used up. The baking dish I used measured 8.5" x 11" x 3". I ended up with 3 layers of eggplant and 2 layers of meat sauce.
Spread the béchamel over the top of the layered eggplant and meat sauce layers. Sprinkle the reserved pecorino romano over the top.
Bake for about 1 hour or until the casserole is bubbling hot. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for about 10-15 minutes before cutting into it.