Moussaka – aka – Kicked-Up Eggplant Lasagna
As comforting and delicious as it is good for you, this gluten free moussaka, or kicked-up eggplant lasagna, is sure to warm you from the inside out!
Moussaka is probably one of my ultimate favorite comfort foods of all times! Unfortunately, it also happens to be one of those dishes that’s just darn near impossible to portray in a way that makes it actually looks as good as it tastes.
But trust me… this Greek style eggplant lasagna is insanely delicious! I think I even prefer it to traditional lasagna… It’s a creamy, dreamy and incredibly tasty concoction;. you’re looking at layers of soft and tender baked eggplant, sandwiched between loads of ground lamb in a tasty tomato sauce, and topped with a rich, cheesy bechamel sauce. Can you say yum?
For my part, though, since I find that most bechamel sauces tend to call for way too much butter and flour to meet my own personal healthy standards, especially if you’re going to also add a fair amount of cheese to it, I like to reach for my secret weapon to make my bechamel sauce: cauliflower. If you’ve never tried it, lemme tell you, it’s absolutely brilliant for this task!
And if you decide to give this recipe a try, you’re about to find out, too!
Now, moussaka is a tad time consuming to make, seeing as how it has so many different steps to it, but believe me when I say it’s still incredibly easy to make, and totally worth the effort! I’m sure you’ll agree with me…
First, preheat your oven to 400°F. Then, brush a large 18″ x 26″ baking sheet with a little bit of olive oil and arrange the slices of eggplant on it.
Brush the tops of the slices with a little bit more olive oil, sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper and bake this in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes; You’ll want to flip the slices once about halfway through cooking, and then leave them in there until the eggplant is softened and slightly golden.
When the eggplant is cooked to your liking, you’ll want to take it out of the oven and lower that oven temperature to 350°F
But, while the eggplant is baking, we’re not just gonna sit around and wait…
Heat some olive oil (or your preferred cooking fat) in a large saute pan set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook them until fragrant and slightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the ground lamb and salt and continue cooking, stirring from time to time and breaking the meat as you go, until the lamb is no longer pink, which should take about 5 minutes.
If you’re not a fan of lamb, feel free to use beef, or veal, or any ground meat that you prefer.
Oh, and I think it’s probably time to flip those eggplant slices by now…
Next, add the crushed tomatoes, water (if you happen to have some bone broth lying around, by all means, feel free to use that instead of water; red wine would be amazing, too!), dried oregano, black pepper, cinnamon and allspice; stir well, cover loosely lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Don’t forget to check on your eggplant!
Alright, so now that the meat mixture has been dealt with, let’s get started on the “bechamel”…
While the meat sauce is simmering, place the cauliflower florets into a steam basket and cook them over salted boiling water until they are really tender, about 8 to 10 minutes; remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Now carefully transfer the cooked cauliflower to a high-speed blender; add the milk, salt, white pepper and nutmeg and process on high speed until smooth and creamy.
While the motor is running, add the egg yolk trough the feeding hole in the lid and continue to mix until it’s fully incorporated.
This little precaution will prevent the delicate yolk from cooking the instant it comes in contact with the hot cauliflower…
Once the yolk has been mixed in, remove the lid, add the grated cheeses and then resume processing until they too, are completely incorporated, about 15 seconds.
Alright, now time to assemble all these yummy components and turn them into Moussaka!! By now, your eggplant slices should be out of the oven and should have had ample time to cool, so you can safely handle them with your bare fingers.
And your lovely lamb filling should have simmered plenty, so it’s gotten all kinds of thick, is looking all rich and meaty and is filling the house with the most intoxicating aroma!
So, start by spreading about one third of the meat mixture at the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish, and then arrange half of the eggplant slices over it.
Top those slices with the rest of the meat mixture and spread it evenly all the way to the edge…
Continue layering with the remaining slices of eggplant, and then cover them with all of the “cauli-bechamel” sauce.
Of course, you’ll want to spread that sauce all the way to the edge…
Now bake your moussaka at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top gets slightly golden, especially around the edges.
Let the moussaka stand for at least 10 to 15 minutes before serving and garnish it with a handful of chopped parsley, if you so desire.
To serve, slice with a sharp chef knife, but don’t expect miracles… unless you were to refrigerate your moussaka completely before slicing it, you’ll have a very hard time making it look all neat and pretty. But who cares, really; I swear you’ll forget all about looks as soon as you’ve grabbed the first bite!
Moussaka - aka - Kicked-Up Eggplant Lasagna
- 2 large eggplants, ends removed and cut into 1/4" thick slices
- 3-4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Generous sprinkle of salt and pepper
- Preheat your oven to 400°F.
- Brush a large 18" x 26" baking sheet with a little bit of olive oil and then arrange the eggplant slices on it.
- Brush the tops of the slices with more olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, flipping the slices once halfway through cooking, until the eggplant is softened and slightly golden. Remove and let cool until ready to use. Once eggplant is out of the oven, lower temperature to 350°F
- While the eggplant is baking, heat some olive oil (or other cooking fat of your choice) in a large saute pan set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant and slightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ground lamb and salt and continue cooking, stirring from time to time and breaking the meat as you go, until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, water, dried oregano, black pepper, cinnamon and allspice; stir well, cover loosely lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
- While the sauce is simmering, place the cauliflower florets into a steam basket and cook over salted boiling water until really tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Carefully transfer the cooked cauliflower to a high-speed blender, add the milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg and process on high speed until smooth and creamy. While the motor is running, add the egg yolk trough the feeding hole in the lid and continue to mix until it's fully incorporated.
- Remove the lid, add the grated cheeses and then resume processing until it's completely incorporated, about 15 seconds.
- Spread about 1/3 of the meat mixture at the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking dish, then arrange half of the eggplant slices over it.
- Top with the rest of the meat mixture, followed by remaining slices of eggplant, and finally, all of the bechamel sauce.
- Bake in the 350°F oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top gets nice and golden.
- Let stand for at least 10 to 15 minutes before serving; garnish with a handful of chopped parsley, if desired.