I just love moussaka, but the traditional version is just too much work for one serving. I had a recipe for a Jewish Egyptian version of moussaka without bechamel, (or messa’aa) but the first try needed more tweaking. Back to the drawing board! This version uses more spices, has better flavor, and is much easier to put together.
There’s Middle Eastern flavor from spicy/warm cinnamon and nutmeg, the bite of garlic and onion, tender eggplant, and tomatoes. You can make this either with ground lamb or ground beef (whichever you prefer).
Many of the recipes I saw required first making a tomato sauce, then a meat mixture, then the eggplant, and finally assembling the entire thing together. Too much work and too many pots and pans to clean up.
My way is easier. First salt and fry the eggplant (or broil if you’d prefer), then cook the onion and garlic, add the meat, tomatoes, and seasoning, layer it all together and bake it. Instead of spending hours in the kitchen, you can have dinner ready in about an hour.
Or, make it all ahead of time, up to the point of putting it in the oven. Then, put the baking dish in the fridge, and cook it when you’re ready. Just take the dish out about fifteen or twenty minutes in advance so that it isn’t ice cold when you put it in the oven. Make a quick salad or some rice and you have dinner.
This recipe is also a product of a bit of advance planning. The trouble with cooking for one sometimes is that even if you make one serving you still have more ingredients left. However, a little menu planning can go a long way toward fixing that problem. You end up with several delicious meals, a lot less waste, and it’s far more budget friendly too.
For example, this recipe uses the rest of the eggplant from rosemary olive oil broiled eggplant and the remaining crushed tomatoes from tomato artichoke pasta sauce recipe from two weeks ago. I’ve now used up the eggplant and the can of tomatoes. There are more recipes at the bottom of the post to help with the beef.
Moussaka Without Bechamel Sauce Substitutions and Variations
- Pan fry some almonds in olive oil and add that to the meat mixture in the pan
- Toss in some raisins
- Top the moussaka with a mixture of yogurt, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, and chopped cucumbers (sort of a tzatziki without the dill)
- Substitute potatoes or zucchini for the eggplant
- Add some chopped green pepper to the meat mixture
Moussaka Without Bechamel Tools and Ingredients
I use this dish all the time. It’s great for mini-moussaka (like this recipe), mac and cheese, peach crumble, triple chocolate cake, brownies, or ginger pear bread. You could even make quiche or a mini-meatloaf in it. The dish goes in the oven, the microwave, or the broiler and it’s dishwasher safe too. And since it’s pretty, you don’t need an extra serving dish (one less thing to wash).
Despite the name, this isn’t a spice mixture; it’s from a berry. Allspice is great for moussaka, and indispensable for meatballs, pies (pumpkin season is coming!), and chicken. Like nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves it’s one of those warm/spicy ingredients that can add a little kick or a savory flavor depending on how you use it. It’s sort of a cinnamony, clove, nutmeg taste.
More Eggplant Recipes
A classic Italian favorite featuring tender eggplant, a rich tomato sauce, and gooey, melted mozzarella. And, it’s a lot less work than you may think.
Repurpose Israeli salad and turn it into a full meal. Just add eggplant, egg, and a pita. Voila!
Quick, slightly spicy, and served with a classic caprese salad of tomato, mozzarella, and basil. This dish only takes about 20 minutes to make.
Eggplant that’s so soft it practically melts in your mouth. Sprinkled with rosemary and topped with melted parmesan. My cousin made this for me eons ago and I’ve been hooked ever since.