This dish is a legend! Creamy, juicy and absolutely delicious.. Greek moussaka (mousaka) is one of the most popular dishes in Greece, served in almost every tavern and prepared in every household on special occasions and big family meals and for good reason! To prepare a traditional Greek Moussaka recipe, luscious layers of juicy beef mince (or lamb) are cooked in a tomato based sauce, layered with sweet eggplants and creamy béchamel sauce and baked together until golden perfection.. Simply irresistible! With this step-by-step traditional Greek Moussaka recipe you can easily recreate this traditional delight from scratch! So go ahead, indulge yourself to this little sin.. This easy to follow Greek moussaka recipe never fails to impress and is always a crowd pleaser. The essence of this traditional Greek moussaka recipe can be summarised in three key stages: preparing the meat filling, preparing the béchamel sauce and cooking the eggplants. Each stage will require dirtying some pans, but i think you will agree that the end result is well worth it!
Prepare the meat sauce
The traditional Greek moussaka recipe calls for either lamb mince or a mix of lamb and beef. But if you can’t handle its strong flavour and prefer a lighter version try substituting with good quality beef or veal mince. To prepare the meat sauce for this moussaka recipe, the ground beef is sautéed in olive oil, flavoured with onions and garlic and then simmered in red wine and tomato sauce. The aromatic herbs and spices used in the traditional moussaka recipe penetrate the meat and give a really characteristic taste and smell which permeates the house, once put in the oven! Let the sauce simmer for a while to allow the flavours to mingle.
Prepare the Béchamel sauce
The creamy béchamel sauce is the most essential part for a traditional Greek moussaka recipe and probably the trickiest part too. To achieve the perfect texture for your béchamel sauce, add the milk (preferably lukewarm) a little bit at a time whilst constantly stirring. The perfect béchamel sauce for your moussaka should be smooth and creamy. The key is to whisk the sauce constantly to allow each time the flour to absorb the milk, so that it doesn’t get lumpy. Cook the sauce over medium-low heat in order to prevent it from burning and sticking on the bottom of the pan, but be careful to cook it enough, until you can’t taste the flour and is thick enough.
Prepare the vegetables
The base for a traditional Greek moussaka is most commonly fried eggplants. Some moussaka recipes also use sliced potatoes, so if you like potatoes, try adding a layer of sliced potatoes as the first layer to this amazing dish for some extra comfort during the winter months. The traditional Greek moussaka recipe calls for fried eggplants (and potatoes), but for a lighter alternative, try drizzling the aubergines (and potatoes) with some olive oil and bake them for 20 minutes instead of frying them. Some eggplants may be bitter, so it is very important to remove the bitterness by seasoning with salt and letting them stand for half an hour in a colander.
vegetable oil (for frying the eggplants)
For the meat sauce
750g beef or lamb mince (26 ounces)
2 red onions (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g/ 14 oz.)
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 teaspoon sugar
1 glass of red wine
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
a pinch of cinnamon or one cinnamon stick
1/4 of a cup olive oil
For the béchamel sauce
900ml milk (3 and 1/2 cups)
120g butter (3.5 ounces)
120g flour (3.5 ounces)
a pinch of nutmeg
2 egg yolks
100g Parmigiano-Reggiano or Kefalotyri (3.5 ounces)
To prepare this Greek moussaka recipe, begin by preparing the eggplants. Remove the stalks from the eggplants and cut them into slices, 1 cm thick. Season with salt and place in a colander for about half an hour.
Rinse the eggplants with plenty of water and squeeze with your hands, to get rid of the excessive water. Pat them dry and fry in plenty of oil, until nicely colored. Place the fried eggplants on some paper, in order to absorb the oil. (For a lighter version of the traditional Greek moussaka try drizzling the aubergines with some olive oil and bake them for 20 minutes instead of frying them).
Prepare the meat sauce for the moussaka. Heat a large pan to medium -high heat and add the olive oil. Stir in the chopped onions and sauté, until softened and slightly colored. Stir in the garlic, tomato puree and the mince breaking it up with a wooden spoon and sauté. Pour in the red wine and wait to evaporate. Add the tinned tomatoes, the sugar, a pinch of cinnamon, 1 bay leaf and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer with the lid on for about 30 minutes, until most of the juices have evaporated.
Prepare the béchamel sauce for the moussaka. Use a large pan to melt some butter over low-medium heat. Add the flour whisking continuously to make a paste. Add warmed milk in a steady stream; keep whisking in order to prevent your sauce from getting lumpy. If the sauce still needs to thicken, boil over low heat while continuing to stir. Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the egg yolks, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and the grated cheese. Whisk quickly, in order to prevent the eggs from turning an omelette!
Assemble the moussaka. For this moussaka recipe you will need a large baking dish, approx. 20*30 cm). Butter the bottom and sides of the pan and layer the eggplants. Pour in the meat sauce and even out. Add a second layer of eggplants, top with the béchamel sauce and smooth out with a spatula.
Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake the musaka in preheated oven at 180-200C for about 60 minutes, until crust turns light golden brown. Even though it will be really hard.. you should wait for the moussaka to cool down for a while before cutting into pieces.