This Mediterranean eggplant-based dish is a great choice when you’re serving a crowd, and it makes a nice alternative to lasagna. You can do much of the work in advance — prepare the meat sauce and béchamel the night before and refrigerate, then rewarm them a bit before assembling the dish.
2 1/2 lb. (1.25 kg) globe eggplant (2 medium), cut crosswise into slices 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick
6 Tbs. (3 fl. oz./90 ml) plus 1 tsp. olive oil, plus more for brushing
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup (1.5 oz./45 g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 lb. (750 g) ground lamb
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 can (14 1/2 oz./455 g) diced tomatoes, drained
3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Position racks in the upper, middle and lower positions of an oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Brush the slices on both sides with 5 Tbs. of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the eggplant is tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets among the racks about every 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour, bay leaf and nutmeg and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce cool for 15 minutes, then remove and discard the bay leaf. Whisk in the egg and 2 Tbs. of the cheese. Set the béchamel sauce aside.
In a 3-1/2 quart (3-l) Dutch oven over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Increase the heat to medium-high and warm the 1 tsp. olive oil. Add the ground lamb and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 8 minutes. Drain off the excess fat. Add the garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne and sugar and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more. Stir in 2 Tbs. of the parsley. Transfer the meat sauce to the bowl with the onion.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C). Lightly brush the bottom and sides of the Dutch oven with olive oil. Place a single layer of the eggplant slices on the bottom of the pot. Spread one-fourth of the meat sauce on top. Repeat with 4 more layers of eggplant and 3 more layers of meat sauce, ending with the eggplant. Pour the béchamel sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Transfer the pot to the oven and bake until the moussaka is browned and bubbly on top, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbs. parsley. Let the moussaka rest for 20 minutes before serving. Serves 6.