Musaka is a dish from the Balkans, Middle East, and Eastern Mediterranean areas. The most common spelling I find is Moussaka, which is Greek. But, of course I am tapping into my Serbian roots so, I will spell it the Serbian way, musaka! Just so you know the computer hates the way I spell musaka. 😀
Musaka is divine! The Greek make musaka with eggplant, in the Balkans it is made with potato, or as my mother sometimes makes it, with yellow squash. In the Middle East it is made with eggplant and chickpeas. So, as you can see, there are may variations all depending on the region.
The general make up is ground meat in a tomato based sauce layered between sliced vegetables, such as: potato, eggplant, or summer squash, and topped with a béchamel sauce, which is a milk and egg custard. However, musaka is not always layered. The Turkish preparation is to mix up casserole style. I’ve always had this dish served hot or warm, but I recently learned that in the Middle East it is actually served cold. THe recipe I share with you below is to be served hot, but just so you know I’ve eaten leftovers cold and its still delish!
A few weeks ago I harvested sweet potatoes out of my garden and had to use them to make musaka…the all time favorite dish in my house. I experimented with sweet potato in this dish year ago, as I was out of regular potatoes, and it turned out to be mine and my family’s favorite way to prepare musaka. (In a later post I will share a variation of this recipe using summer squash.)
I make musaka only 4 times a year. Why? Good question. I should make it more often. Usually, I make it for Bozic, in the summer when zucchini is abundant in the garden, in the fall with eggplant or sweet potato, and for my husband’s birthday, as musaka is his favorite dish.
I’ve had musaka prepared several ways and have never been disappointed. Now that you know a little bit about this dish’s let me tell you that you will find MANY delicious recipes out there, but none are better than mine made with sweet potato!! Well, I am quite pleased with it.
Give it a shot and let me know what you think of this recipe. Comment below. Enjoy!
Moussaka with Sweet Potatoes
A delicious Balkan dish that will surely have your guests wanting more.
4-5 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thick
2 TBSP olive oil
2 onions, diced
3 lbs ground meat (can include beef, pork, and/or lamb)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup fresh parsley
2 cups tomatoes, chopped
1 cup tomato soup (or sauce)
1/2 cup cooking red wine
2-3 TBSP cornstarch
1 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 pound butter (1/2 of a stick)
1 cup flour
6 cups hot milk
6 eggs, beaten
- Prepare the sweet potatoes: Peel and slice the sweet potatoes about 1/4″ thick. Lay on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Set aside.
- The meat mixture: In a dutch oven over medium heat warm the olive oil. Add the onions. Cook for about 4 minutes. Add the meat. Once the meat has browned remove the excess liquid then add the garlic, pepper, salt, sugar, allspice, cinnamon, parsley, tomatoes, tomato soup (or sauce) and wine. Cook on low for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. If the mixture is runny add the cornstarch by taking about 2 tablespoons of the runny liquid and put it in a bowl with the cornstarch. Mix until well incorporated then pour back into the meat mixture. Stir well.
- Béchamel sauce: In a sauce pan melt butter. Once melted add the flour and stir until the flour is a brown. Slowly stir in warm milk. Cook until the sauce is thick then remove it from heat and add the eggs. Stir until well combined and pour over the second sweet potato layer.
- Assembly: Spray a 12″x17″ pan baking pan with cooking spray. Layer the bottom of the pan with half of the sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese. Pour the meat mixture next. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with a layer of remaining sweet potatoes and sprinkle with cheese. Add the Béchamel sauce then sprinkle with nutmeg and the remaining parmesan cheese.
- Bake: Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired. Serve and enjoy!