I can never decide which cuisine is my favourite. I think I could narrow it down to three – Italian, Mexican and Greek (almost entirely because of pasta, enchiladas, and moussaka). I’ve combined Italian and Mexican before (nacho pasta bake), and I’ve combined Mexican and Greek (Greek-inspired fajitas), so this time I thought I’d go for an Italian-Greek combo – vegetarian moussaka pasta bake! Why have one favourite when you can have two? (a.k.a. why bastardise one cuisine when you can bastardise two?)
This moussaka pasta bake starts with some rich, tomatoey pasta, and it’s topped with layers of griddled aubergine (eggplant), and a thick béchamel sauce. It’s a bit quicker and simpler to make than a real moussaka (no faffing about with slices of potato), but has all those familiar flavours, with extra pasta! Which is always a plus.
I only added quite a thin layer of béchamel to the top of my moussaka pasta bake so as not to be too indulgent (stupid January), but you could easily double (or even triple?!) the amount of sauce if you want a thicker layer. Let me live vicariously through you.
If you want to add some extra protein to your moussaka pasta bake, you could always throw some cooked red lentils in with the pasta – you often find lentils in vegetarian moussaka as an alternative to the ground meat, so they’d fit the theme. You could probably cook them in the pan along with the pasta, in fact. I’m all for saving on dishes.
Just serve up a big spoonful of your moussaka pasta bake (you might need to use a knife to cut through the layer of aubergine) with some garlic bread and salad and you’ve got yourself an awesome Greek / Italian feast.
Vegetarian moussaka pasta bake
- 350 g (~ 3.5 cups) dried pasta
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 400 g tinned tomatoes (~ 1 1/3 cups)
- 400 g pizza sauce (~ 1 1/3 cups) - or similar rich tomato sauce
- 1/2 tsp dried mint
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Black pepper
- 1 large aubergine (eggplant)
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- 250 ml ~ 1 cup milk
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- 1 medium tomato, sliced
- Boil the pasta in plenty of water until cooked al dente, then drain.
- Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a large frying pan, and add the onion and garlic. Cook over a medium heat for a few minutes, until the vegetables are soft and translucent. Add the tinned tomatoes, pizza sauce, mint and cinnamon, along with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the sauce looks nice and rich. Add the cooked pasta, and mix well to combine.
- Cut the aubergine lengthwise into thin slices. Place a few slices at a time into a hot griddle pan (or a hot frying pan, if you don't have a griddle pan), and cook for a minute or two on each side until char lines appear (if using a frying pan, you won't get char lines - just cook until the aubergine is soft). Repeat with the remaining slices.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over a fairly low heat, and add the flour. Whisk together to form a roux, and mix for a minute or so over the heat to cook the flour. Add the milk a dash at a time, stirring until the mixture is smooth each time before adding more. Add the nutmeg and a good pinch of salt and pepper, and mix once more to combine.
- To assemble the moussaka pasta bake, transfer the tomatoey pasta to a suitably sized baking dish, and top with the slices of griddled aubergine. Spread the béchamel sauce over the top, and finish with a few slices of tomato.
- Bake at 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F) for around 30 minutes, or until the béchamel sauce is just starting to brown.
Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose. Information above is for 1/4 of the recipe.