ages ago—when i had a lot of free time—i used to make moussaka with relative frequency. if you’ve never heard of moussaka, it’s a mediterranean dish of layered grilled eggplant, spiced lamb in a tomato sauce, and a creamy sauce, topped with cheese. it’s not unlike lasagna, and it takes just about as long to make.
obviously i don’t have that kind of free time anymore, but i found some beautiful eggplants at the farmers market and could not get the flavors of moussaka out of my head. i compromised with the modification below. though it is still more labor intensive than i strive for these days, the end result is fantastic.
- 1 small onion, minced
- 2 small eggplants, peeled and cubed
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 15 oz. can tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 block cream cheese
- 1 cup half and half
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 4 ounces feta cheese
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- salt and pepper
cook pasta according to package directions.
heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the onion. continue cooking, stiring often, until the onion is glassy, then increase the heat to medium high and add the eggplant and lamb. add salt and pepper to taste and saute until the eggplant is soft and the lamb is browned. add the cinnamon, cloves, tomato paste, and tomato sauce to the eggplant/lamb mixture and reduce heat to low to keep warm and allow the flavors to come together.
in a small pot heat the cream cheese and half and half over medium low heat until they are well combined. add the nutmeg, then remove from the heat and set aside.
toss the cooked pasta into the tomato/lamb/eggplant mixture, and plate. top each serving with a heavy drizzle of the cream mixture, and then sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese.
notes: it’s important that you use a large pasta shape here, as the sauce is very chunky. if you are unable to find rigatoni you could substitute penne rigate or ziti. this recipe is dedicated to my bff katie, who is the biggest fan of my traditional moussaka. now she can make it at home!