I’m pretty sure the name of this dish is going to get me in trouble. I don’t think any Greek person would consider my Vegetarian Moussaka to be proper Moussaka. It is, however, very delicious and totally inspired by the Moussaka I ate in Athens a couple of years ago, and the stories my son has told me about the Moussaka he ate in the Greek Islands not long after that.
I have wanted to make my own vegetarian version of this dish for quite some time, but something always held me back. I wasn’t sure where to go with it, recipe wise, as I felt it was too predictable to just replace the meat with a meat substitute like Quorn. I also have never really liked the long strips of eggplant (aubergine) in the traditional recipe. I do like eggplant, but I prefer it chunky, rather than in strips or mashed up. Finally, the other day, I decided to attempt my own version of vegetarian moussaka, and the result was delicious.
It wasn’t, however, very authentic at all. In fact, some of the ingredients I chose meant it kind of veered away from Greece and flew headlong towards Italy. And I used the spinach (which I’ve never, ever seen in Moussaka) because I had it on hand, and to add iron to this meatless dish. Yet when I put it on the table, my family, without prompting or any prior knowledge of what was for dinner, immediately said, ‘Oh, it’s Moussaka’.
So I’m going to risk the wrath of the purists and go with that. If it bothers you, you are very welcome to call it ‘Greek inspired Vegetarian Casserole’ or any other name you prefer – because whatever you call it, it really is delicious.
- 2 red onions, cut in chunks (roughly 1 inch)
- 1 eggplant (aubergine), chopped in chunks (roughly 1 inch)
- 2 - 3 zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut in chunky half moons
- 2 red peppers, de-seeded and cut in chunks
- 2 cups white mushrooms, quartered
- ¼ cup + 2 teaspoons vegetable oil (preferably mild olive oil), divided
- 1½ cups plain tomato sauce or passata (sieved tomatoes)
- ¼ cup basil pesto (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 cups spinach, washed, with any tough stems broken off (optional)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 generous tablespoons flour
- approximately 2 cups milk
- 1 cup grated vegetarian cheddar
- ½ cup grated mozzarella cheese
- (or use 1½ cups of either of these cheeses)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C or 180°C for a fan oven).
- Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with vegetable oil.
- Place the chopped onions, eggplant, zucchini, red peppers and mushrooms on a large baking tray and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. (You’ll need the rest later.)
- Roast the vegetables for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, drizzle over the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and turn the vegetables.
- Return to the oven for a further 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. (Don’t be tempted to use a smaller saucepan as you are going to add the roast vegetables later.)
- Toss in the garlic and warm it through but don’t let it take on any colour.
- Add the tomato sauce or passata and the pesto (if using).
- Add the oregano and salt and pepper to taste.
- Turn the heat down and simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the roast vegetables from the oven when they are cooked and add them to the tomato sauce mixture in the saucepan.
- Stir through gently, cover and remove from the heat.
- In another small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Whisk in the flour.
- Cook for two to three minutes, whisking constantly.
- Gradually add the milk, whisking after each addition, to make a fairly thick sauce.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Place the roast vegetable and tomato mixture in the bottom of the casserole dish, spreading it out evenly.
- Top with a fairly even layer of spinach, if you are using it.
- Spread the white sauce over the top of the casserole. Mix the cheeses together and sprinkle over top.
- Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top begins to turn golden brown.
- Enjoy with a salad and /or crusty bread.
If you enjoyed this recipe you may also enjoy my Spinach Florentine Pasta Bake.
Shared with My Meatless Mondays