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.
Easy Moussaka Without Bechamel
Cinnamon and nutmeg, a touch of garlic and onion, tender eggplant, and tomatoes make a rich, delicious moussaka without the heavy bechamel sauce.
- 12 thin slices eggplant (about half a small eggplant)
- kosher salt
- 2 T plus 1 T olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1 small clove garlic, smashed and minced
- 1/4 lb. ground beef or lamb
- 4 T crushed tomatoes
- pinch cinnamon
- pinch allspice
- generous grinding of pepper and salt to taste
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- Preheat the toaster oven to 350 degrees.
- Spread the sliced eggplant on a cutting board and sprinkle it with kosher salt. Let sit for fifteen or twenty minutes. Then rinse the salt off and pat dry.
- Heat 2T of the olive oil in a frying pan large enough to hold the eggplant in one layer.
- Add the eggplant slices to the hot oil and cook for a minute on each side (it should be lightly colored, but not brown).
- Remove the eggplant, place on paper towels, and pat dry.
- Add the onion to the pan, and add the additional 1T of oil. Let the onion cook for five minutes on medium-low heat, until it softens and the fragrance starts to waft through your kitchen. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
- Now add the ground beef or lamb, the tomatoes, and the spices.
- Cook for 10 minutes until the meat is browned.
- Layer the bottom of a small (6 inches or so) baking dish with half the eggplant. Add the cooked meat mixture on top. Then arrange the remaining eggplant on top.
- Put the dish in the toaster oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.
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
HIC Square Baking Dish
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
Eggplant Parmesan Recipe for One
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.
Vegetarian Eggplant Sandwich for One Person
Repurpose Israeli salad and turn it into a full meal. Just add eggplant, egg, and a pita. Voila!
Pasta alla Norma with Eggplant
Quick, slightly spicy, and served with a classic caprese salad of tomato, mozzarella, and basil. This dish only takes about 20 minutes to make.
Rosemary Olive Oil Broiled Eggplant
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.