In Greek: μουσακάς κολοκυθάκια, say: moo-sah-KAS koh-loh-kee-THAK-yah
Layers of zucchini, meat sauce, cheese, and a creamy béchamel create a fabulous oven-to-table casserole. Select mature zucchini or Italian squash (they look like large zucchini) for best results.
Moussaka is traditionally served in very large pieces and it is a heavy dish. Serve with a green salad, crusty bread, and a dry red wine. If anyone has room for dessert, a fruit sorbet or cheese with fruit is a light way to end on a sweet note.
- For the Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 medium onions (chopped)
- 2 1/2 pounds ground beef (or lamb)
- 3 cups chopped ripe tomatoes with juice (or canned tomatoes)
- 1 cup breadcrumbs (finely ground, toasted)
- Sea salt (to taste)
- Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or a small stick, break off around 1-inch long)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- 6 to 8 whole cloves
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- For the Béchamel:
- Béchamel with cheese* or 6 cups of basic béchamel**
- 5 to 6 pounds zucchini (trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch slices)
- For the Topping:
- 1 cup grated kefalotyri cheese (or pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano)
Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this Greek dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.
To Make the Sauce
Gather the ingredients.
Preheat the frying pan or skillet over low heat.
When the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of oil and increase the heat to medium-low.
Using a wooden spoon, sauté the onions until translucent.
Add the meat and continue to sauté until lightly browned.
Add tomatoes, 1/2 the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, garlic, cinnamon, bay leaves, allspice, cloves, wine, and tomato paste, and mix well.
Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 45 minutes to an hour. If there is still liquid in the pan, continue to simmer uncovered, stirring to prevent sticking, until the mixture is as dry as possible. To prevent the final dish from having too much moisture, this step is crucial.
When dry, discard the bay leaves, cloves, and cinnamon stick (if used), and set sauce aside uncovered until ready to use.
While the Sauce Is Simmering
Make the béchamel with cheese or 6 cups of basic béchamel, cover, and set aside.
Sauté the zucchini slices until lightly browned.
To Make the Casserole
Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
Lightly oil a large baking or roasting pan and sprinkle the bottom with the remaining breadcrumbs.
Place a layer of zucchini slices on the breadcrumbs (it's ok to overlap) and spread the meat mixture evenly on top.
Cover with the remaining zucchini slices and carefully pour the béchamel sauce evenly over the top.
Bake for 30 minutes, then sprinkle the cheese over the top and continue to cook for another 15 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove the moussaka from the oven and allow to cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Moussaka is traditionally eaten warm, not hot, can also be eaten at room temperature, and is great on the second day.
- In Greece, Moussaka is most often made with ground beef.
- Moussaka can be prepared up to the béchamel and refrigerated overnight. The next day, add the sauce and cook. It can also be completely cooked and cooled, then frozen. Defrost completely and reheat.