My mother loved moussaka. When I made it for her, I used ground lamb, ricotta cheese, eggs, and homemade pasta sauce. Things and times have changed so here’s one that’s dairy, gluten and egg free and uses jarred (or homemade if you have the time and desire) sauce. Just in case, I’m including my recipe for pasta sauce.
First, start the tomato sauce if making homemade by heating in a small Dutch oven:
1 tablespoon olive oil
Add to it when hot:
1 diced medium onion
1 diced sweet pepper, any color
1/2 cup sliced carrots (or grated)
6 ounces shitake mushrooms
Stir to combine, lower heat to medium and cook until the onions and mushrooms are sweating and onion is translucent. Add:
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
32 ounces small diced tomatoes
16 ounces tomato puree
1 teaspoon mixed Italian dried herbs (basil, marjoram, thyme)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Cook over medium low heat for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. This gets rid of much of the water in the tomatoes so the sauce can thicken. If it boils too vigorously, reduce the heat to low. When reduced by about 1/3, add:
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon agave nectar
Use an immersion blender to cream most of the vegetables, leaving a few whole. I do this because then the eggplant slices sit better in the sauce but it is optional. In a large skillet, heat:
1 tablespoon olive oil
When hot add:
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (or if you want this vegan, diced tofu)**
Cook the sausage through and then drain off the fat and add to the tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Set aside. If using jarred sauce, this will take more than 1 large jar.
While the sauce is cooking, peel and thinly slice:
1 large eggplant
Place the slices on a large, sided baking sheet in a single layer and salt generously. Once salted, another layer of eggplant can be added on the top of the first, again salting generously. Place a slightly smaller baking sheet on top of the eggplant and then weight it down with large cans. Let sit at least 30 minutes, 60 is preferable.
After sitting, wash each eggplant slice to remove the salt and whatever liquid was expelled from the slices. Dry between paper towels. Heat in a large skillet (12 inch) or flat griddle:
1 teaspoon olive oil (just to coat the bottom of the pan)
When hot, add eggplant slices until the bottom is covered but the slices have room to move. Let brown for a minute or two and then turn and brown the second side. Repeat until all the slices are browned.
Still while the sauce is cooking, add to a large saucepan:
1/2 cup olive oil
Begin heating over medium high heat. Add:
3/4 cup gluten-free flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice (or nutmeg)
Whisk to combine. Cook over medium low heat for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour then add, 1 cup at a time:
3 cups oat milk (or any other non-dairy milk except soy)
Whisk each portion of milk into the flour and cook, whisking every minute or so, until the white sauce is thickened. It should be the consistency of a pudding or mashed potatoes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9×13″ baking pan with non-stick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with slices of eggplant.* Add a layer of the meat sauce and repeat ending with a layer of eggplant (3 layers of eggplant and 2 layers of sauce). There may be a little meat sauce left over. Slowly pour the white sauce on top of the last layer of eggplant (I didn’t quite have enough eggplant to cover the entire top but it still worked okay). The white sauce on mine was only about 1/2 inch thick but if your pan is deep enough, use all the white sauce, it’s that yummy on the top! Sprinkle the top with:
1-2 cups grated parmesan cheese
Place baking pan on a large baking sheet because if it’s full, it will bubble over and put in the oven. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the middle is bubbling. Let cool for about 15-20 minutes before slicing.
*Don’t think you have enough eggplant? Peel and thinly slice 1-2 medium to large Russet potatoes and place those on the bottom layer of the moussaka, using the eggplant for just other 2 layers.
**I used sweet Italian sausage but feel free to use any ground meat.