This is a recipe I’ve been playing around with for years. Ten years, to be exact. I started making this recipe I found in Rachel Ray Magazine back in 2011. I tore the page out and have been making variations of her original dish since then. Two years ago Jon and I were so lucky to travel to Greece for his work, a destination that had been at the very top of my bucket list. It was one of my favorite travel experiences of all time. And the FOOD. THE FOOOOD.
After eating moussaka (so, so many times) in Greece I started working on this recipe again, testing different ideas inspired by the incredible food we ate. Traditional Greek moussaka often has potatoes and eggplant and is topped with a traditional béchamel. I like this play on the classic béchamel using cream cheese and ricotta, it adds more flavor and texture to the topping. I’m opting for just one vegetable for the sake of total cooking time and effort. Roasting the eggplant slices first prevents a gross slimy/texturally horrible situation.
My version of Greek moussaka has a rich, seasoned meat sauce with a layer of delicious roasted eggplant, topped with a cheesy béchamel sauce. While it isn’t exactly complicated to make, it definitely requires some time and several pots/pans/baking sheets. But the juice is worth the squeeze in the case of this moussaka. I PROMISE you it is the epitome of the kind of comfort food you want on a cold Sunday evening.
Trim the ends off the eggplant, cut it in half lengthwise, and then turn the eggplant flat side down and slice half moons at least 1/4 inch thick. If the slices are too thin, they won’t roast well.
Either brush each side with olive oil or toss to coat, and then sprinkle generously with dried herbs, salt and pepper.
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, flip, and roast for another 5-10 minutes. Set aside.
Step Two: Meat Sauce
While the eggplant is roasting, heat a large pan over medium heat with the 2 TBS butter.
Add the onions and cook, stirring so they don’t stick, for 5-8 minutes.
Turn the heat up to high, add the ground beef, and brown. Optional step: drain the fat. I’m mostly too lazy to ever do this.
Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, salt and pepper, to the beef and stir to combine.
Reduce the heat to low and add the tomato sauce, and allow to cook for 5 minutes.
Pour the mixture in the base of a large heavy roasting pan or casserole dish, spreading evenly. Set aside.
Step Three: Topping
Reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and set them aside.
In a sauce pan, over medium heat melt the remaining butter.
Add the flour, and stir continuously for a minute to cook it out.
Whisking continuously, slowly pour the warmed milk into the roux.
Allow the sauce to thicken, stirring to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Over low heat, stir in the cream cheese and ricotta until they’re fully blended. Remove from heat.
Using a ladle or measuring cup, scoop 1/3 or 1/2 cup of the mixture (doesn’t need to be precise) and VERY SLOWLY drizzle it into the bowl with the eggs, whisking THE ENTIRE TIME. This requires some solid multi-tasking – pour and whisk!
Once the eggs are tempered, pour that whole mixture into the main sauce pan, stirring to combine.
Layer the eggplant slices on top of the beef, and then pour the cheese sauce over the top.