Lighter Moussaka

BY Victoria de la Maza TIMEJanuary 26, 2022 PRINT

Ground lamb is essential in making this Greek-inspired dish, first browned, then simmered with tomato sauce, rosemary, and warm spices for depth of flavor. The meat sauce is layered with baked eggplant slices and then finished in the oven with a little melted cheese—rather than a full layer of bechamel.

I love this lighter take on moussaka served with simple vegetable side dishes: In the spring and summer, minted peas or sliced tomatoes; in colder months, sautéed spinach or crispy cauliflower.

All in all, it’s a perfect entertaining dish and a sensational alternative to Shepherd’s pie or other heavier casseroles.

moussaka serving closeup 3
Layers of baked eggplant sandwich a rich, fragrant lamb sauce in this lighter take on a Greek classic. (Victoria de la Maza)

Serves 8

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 large eggplants
  • 1 white onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • Sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Slice the eggplants into 1/2-inch rounds. Place on a single layer on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with salt, and drizzle generously with olive oil. Bake in the oven in batches, if necessary, until soft, about 20 to 25 minutes.

In a sauté pan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the ground lamb and a generous pinch of sea salt. Cook, stirring and breaking up the meat, until the lamb is no longer pink. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, rosemary sprigs, tomato sauce, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the liquid has reduced and thickened, about 35 minutes.

Remove the rosemary sprigs and bay leaf before assembling.

In an ovenproof dish, layer the ingredients: 1/3 of the eggplant slices, then 1/2 of the meat sauce, another 1/3 of the eggplant, followed by the rest of the meat sauce and a final layer of eggplant. (You should have three eggplant layers and two meat layers at the end.) Top with the mozzarella and Parmesan.

Bake in the preheated oven until the cheese is melted and the top is golden, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Victoria de la Maza is an award-winning cookbook author, columnist, and international TV host. Passionate about great food, she combines American traditions with her European heritage to create classic-with-a-twist recipes and ideas for stylish entertaining at home. Subscribe to her weekly newsletter, "Diary of a Serial Hostess,” at
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