I had included this vegetarian moussaka on my Pesach meal planner as a ‘maybe’ and DH begged me to upgrade it to ‘definite’. It really is a favourite here, containing as it does all the things we love – flavoursome grilled aubergines (eggplant), rich tomato sauce, filling potato slices, and a delicious creamy, cheesy topping.
I make this all year, but it is a perfect Pesach dinner. Unlike lasagne or other bakes where some element has to be omitted or substituted on Pesach, moussaka contains no grain-based ingredients. Or rather, it doesn’t when you use this easy yogurt topping instead of a béchamel sauce. Frankly, I prefer the flavour of this version anyway, and not having to faff about making a béchamel is not exactly a hardship!
Even without the béchamel though, this is a bit more labour/time intensive than some of my other recipes. You need to slice and grill the aubergines, make the tomato sauce, AND peel, slice and boil the potatoes. However, if you’re a bit organised, you can do at least two of these things at the same time – I usually get the sauce on the go and then do the aubergines while it’s cooking. In any case none of the elements are particularly complicated, so this is a lovely recipe when you have some time to relax and potter in the kitchen.
I usually let the different elements of the dish cool down a little bit before I assemble the moussaka, just because it makes them easier to handle without the risk of scorched fingers. However if you don’t have the luxury of preparing this ahead, then you can put it together straight away – just be careful! Obviously the amount of time required in the oven will be longer if you’re cooking from cool/cold than if it goes in when the layers are still quite hot. Adjust accordingly.
This moussaka is filling, rich and delicious, and really needs very little accompaniment beyond a green salad or a few fresh veggies. As you can see in the photos, we had a little salad of avocado, peppers, cucumber and tomato, and it was just perfect.
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- 2-3 medium aubergines (eggplant) (550-750g total)
- 100ml olive oil
- 1 medium onion
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 x 400g tins tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- Pinch salt
- Pinch pepper
- 1kg floury potatoes
- 200ml natural yogurt
- 1 egg
- 100g feta cheese
- Ground cinnamon (optional)
- Wash the aubergines (eggplant) and trim off the stalks and leaves. Cut the aubergines lengthways into 6-8mm thick slices.
- Heat the grill to medium-high. Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil and arrange as many as will fit on a baking sheet. Cook under the grill for 3-5 minutes until starting to brown.
- Turn the slices over, brush the other side with oil, and grill for 3-5 minutes on that side.
- When both sides are browned, and the slices are soft, remove to a plate and continue with more aubergine slices until they are all cooked.
- Peel and dice the onion. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and cook the onion over a medium flame until starting to soften.
- Add the tinned tomatoes, thyme, oregano and bayleaf, and bring to a simmer.
- Turn down the heat and cook, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes until thickened and cooked through. Stir occasionally to prevent the sauce sticking to the pan.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove from the heat.
- Peel the potatoes, and cut into 4-5mm thick slices. Wash in cold water and drain.
- Place in a large saucepan and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes until just tender to the point of a knife - don't overcook or they will be impossible to handle when you come to assemble the final dish.
- Once cooked, drain the potatoes in a large sieve or colander.
- Put a thin layer of the tomato sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof baking dish and spread out. Cover with half the aubergine slices, then half the potatoes, in even layers.
- Spread over half the remaining tomato sauce, then the remaining aubergine, and finally the remaining potato slices.
- Finally, spread the rest of the tomato sauce on the top.
- To make the topping, whisk together the yogurt and egg. Carefully pour/spread this mixture over the top layer of tomato sauce, taking care not to mix them together too much.
- Crumble the feta cheese over the top, then sprinkle over a little cinnamon, if liked.
- Bake the moussaka at 180C (350F) for at least an hour, until it is thoroughly heated through, bubbling, and the top is golden.
- Serve hot.
- The final baking time will depend on the temperature of the moussaka when it goes into the oven. If the different elements have cooled down before assembly, it may take longer than 1 hour to heat right through. If in doubt, bake for an hour and a half, but loosely cover the top with foil after an hour if it seems to be getting too brown.