Widely known as the unofficial dish of Greece, moussaka is available in almost every taverna across the country. During the height of eggplant season, you will find locals and tourists alike enjoying plates of moussaka alongside a glass of red wine and a fresh village salad. Like any popular dish, every family’s recipe will vary. Some will use just eggplant. Others will use eggplant and potatoes, no zucchini. Some will use eggplant and zucchini and no potatoes, which is a devastating loss. If the question is potatoes, the answer should always be yes!
My yiayia’s version of this traditional recipe includes all three vegetables and is slightly less labour intensive as she opted to bake the vegetables instead of frying them. This step saves both time and dishes, which is always a plus. With rich layers of meat sauce, roasted vegetables and a creamy bechamel, this hearty dish is sure to impress anyone lucky enough to try it.
Season eggplant with salt and let sit for 30 minutes before assembly. This will draw out excess moisture and prevent eggplant from getting bitter.
For the sauce, saute red onion in olive oil for 5 minutes, then add garlic, oregano, bay leaves and cinnamon stick and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan with white wine.
Add in meat and allow to cook for 5 minutes before adding in the canned tomatoes. Break the tomatoes up with your spatula and allow to cook for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. While the sauce is cooking, peel and slice potatoes into 1-inch disks. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a single layer on a baking dish. Roast for 20 minutes.
Pat the eggplant dry and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Once potatoes are out of the oven, layer eggplant on top and cook for 20 minutes.
Slice zucchini into 1-inch disks and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on top of the eggplant and cook for a final 20 minutes.
While the vegetables are finishing in the oven, make the bechamel. Melt the butter on low heat then whisk in the flour. Slowly add the milk which will help loosen the sauce. Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Once the vegetables are out of the oven, layer the meat sauce on top, followed by the bechamel. Grate the parmesan cheese on top and finish with freshly ground black pepper.
Bake until the top is a deep golden, about 30 minutes. Allow moussaka to cool for at least an hour before serving. Garnish with parsley if using and serve warm.