With layers of tender aubergine, creamy béchamel and lightly-spiced meat, moussaka is a winning Greek dish and, what's more, it's easy to make your own from scratch. Our step-by-step recipe swaps lamb for lean beef to create a lighter family dinner. Don't forget to screenshot the ingredients list at the bottom before you go shopping.
Preheat the oven to gas 4, 180°C, fan 160°C. Line 2 large baking trays with foil. Trim and thinly slice lengthways 3-4 aubergines (about 1kg) and arrange the slices in a single layer on the trays. Prick the slices with a fork and use 2 tbsp oil to brush them on both sides. Bake for 25-30 mins or until tender. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Increase the oven temperature to gas 5, 190°C, fan 170°C.
Tip: Aubergines are very sponge-like so tend to absorb a lot of oil when fried. Baking is a much healthier method of cooking as you can control the amount of oil absorbed. Brushing will help a little go along way.
Meanwhile, heat ½ tbsp oil in a large, deep, lidded nonstick pan over a low heat. Add 1 large finely chopped onion, 1 finely chopped celery stick and 1 large finely chopped carrot. Cover and cook for 10 mins until softened. Uncover, stir in 5 finely chopped garlic cloves and 2 tsp dried oregano and cook for 5 mins, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a bowl.
Tip: Using a classic sofrito base (onion, celery and carrot) adds flavour to the moussaka and also helps to bulk it out, meaning that less meat can be used, reducing fat and cost.
Fry 500g lean beef mince over a high heat for 3-4 mins until well browned. Return the onion mixture to the pan with the mince and reduce the heat to medium. Stir in 1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon and 1 tbsp tomato purée; cook for 2 mins. Increase the heat to high and pour in 100ml white wine, if using. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 1 min.
Add 400g tinned chopped tomatoes, 200ml stock (made using ½ beef stock cube) and 1 bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then simmer very gently, partially covered but stirring now and then, for 30-40 mins until reduced. Remove the lid for the final 10-15 mins if there is a lot of liquid; it needs to be quite thick. Stir in most of a 15g pack of roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley, if using. Discard the bay leaf and season to taste.
Tip: Browning the mince helps improve the depth of flavour and also gives the beef a more appetising golden colour. Use a nonstick pan and ensure it's very hot before adding the mince so you don't need to use any oil.
Meanwhile, make the béchamel. Put ½ onion, 1 bay leaf and 500ml milk in a pan. Gently heat until just steaming, then set aside to infuse for 5 mins. Strain and discard the flavourings.
In another pan, melt 50g butter, then stir in 50g plain flour to make a roux paste. Cook over a low heat for 2-3 mins, stirring. Gradually whisk in the warm milk to make a smooth sauce. Simmer, stirring constantly, for 5 mins or until thickened.
Tip: Cooking the roux paste for the initial 2-3 mins before you slowly add the milk is essential as it makes sure that the flour becomes fully incorporated, which gives you a smooth, thick sauce.
Stir in 30g finely grated pecorino cheese, ½-1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg and some seasoning. Set aside to cool for 5 mins, then whisk in 2 eggs.
Tip: Adding warm (rather than cold) milk to a roux base makes it easier to incorporate, so it's less likely to go lumpy. Don't worry if lumps do form; use a whisk to beat them out. Allow the sauce to cool slightly before adding the eggs, to avoid them scrambling.
Spoon a third of the beef mixture into a 2.5ltr baking dish. Top with a layer of aubergine, then repeat twice, finishing with a final layer of aubergine. Pour the béchamel sauce on top to ensure a thick covering. Sprinkle over 40g crumbled reduced-fat salad cheese and top with extra nutmeg.
Tip: Topping the beef and aubergine layers with thick béchamel sauce is key to a moussaka. The eggs whisked into the sauce help it to puff up and rise, and finishing with the cheese helps give the dish a delicious golden crust.
Bake for 30-40 mins until bubbling around the edges and the top is puffed and golden. If the top is darkening too quickly, loosely cover the dish with foil. Leave to stand for 20 mins to allow the moussaka to set a little before serving. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley, if using, just before serving.
Once the dish has cooled completely, transfer it to an airtight, freezer-safe container, seal and freeze for up to 1-3 months. To serve, defrost thoroughly in the fridge overnight before reheating. To re-heat: Loosely cover with foil and bake until dish is thoroughly heated through. Re-heat until piping hot. For more tips on freezing and defrosting food, read our article Love Your Freezer.
We've made a shopping list so you can get everything you need to make this wonderfully comforting moussaka. Don’t forget to screenshot before you go shopping!3-4 aubergines (about 1kg), trimmed and thinly sliced lengthways 2½ tbsp olive oil 1 large onion, finely chopped 1 celery stick, finely chopped 1 large carrot, finely chopped 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped 2 tsp dried oregano 500g pack lean beef mince 1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon 1 tbsp tomato purée 100ml white wine (optional) 400g tin chopped tomatoes ½ beef stock cube, made up to 200ml 1 bay leaf 15g fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped (optional)
For the béchamel sauce ½ onion 1 bay leaf 500ml milk 50g butter 50g plain flour 30g pecorino cheese, finely grated ½-1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg 2 eggs 40g reduced-fat salad cheese, crumbled
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