My shortcut hack to a quick moussaka style casserole, is to swap the potatoes with store bought potato gnocchi! Layered together with eggplant, tomato sauce and a hefty amount of cheese sauce, this gnocchi “moussaka” casserole is comfort food at its best. It’s a warming and hearty vegetarian dish as is, but also super easy to make vegan!
moussaka style Gnocchi casserole
I came up with this moussaka style gnocchi casserole prepared in the style of moussaka during spring of 2020. This was a time when I was learning the ropes of distance teaching on the go, while trying to come up with some food at the table both for lunch and dinner. Yeah we ordered in a lot… I had zero time or energy for cooking, but a massive craving for comfort food!
Store bought potato gnocchi were in heavy rotation in my kitchen around that busy, busy time… They cook up in mere minutes and are delicious with the simplest of sauces. I love traditional Greek moussaka, but it clearly is a labor of love and time when prepared well. In my need of a quick fix I ended up substituting potatoes with gnocchi! Although the dish is still not the fastest to prepare, making a huge batch on a Sunday meant lots of comfort to the next week. And it still does! What I created is definitely not a traditional moussaka, though there are lots of variations of this classic Mediterranean dish. But it definitely fits the box of comfort food!
The tomato sauce gets lots of warming depth from garlic, herbs and cinnamon. I also love to add a lot of freshly grated nutmeg to the Mornay sauce! This gnocchi moussaka casserole is definitely food for the cold weather. The pillowy soft gnocchis will fill and warm you up like a dream! Since the night time temperatures have now dropped below zero here in Finland, I think it’s perfect time to finally share this dish with you all.
Gnocchi moussaka casserole
- 500 g fresh gnocchi (store bought)
- 250 g plant based mince
- 1 medium sized eggplant
- olive oil (as needed)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsp tomato pure
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1-2 tsp sugar
- salt (to taste)
- 500 g crushed tomatos (from a can)
- 3 tbsp olive oil (or melted butter)
- ½ dl wheat flour
- 3 dl (oat) milk
- 2 dl (oat) cream
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 150-200 g grated cheese (emmental, mozzarella...) (or vegan cheese)
- salt + freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)
- Slice the eggplant to about ½ cm thickness. Brown the slices in olive oil in batches and stack up for later. Add some more oil in the pan and brown the plant based mince, take it out of the pan for later too! Start heating up the oven to 175°C.
Making the sauces:
- Tomato sauce: Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Heat a table spoon of oil in a pan and cook the onions until translucent. Add in the tomato puré and dried oregano, thyme, ground cinnamon and sugar. Cook on medium heat for a while so that the tomato puré cooks a bit.
- Add in the crushed tomatoes and bring the sauce to a boil. Let the sauce simmer on low heat for fiveish minutes and season to taste with salt.
- Mornay sauce: Add 3 tbsp of oil or butter to a pot and whisk in the flour. Cook on medium heat while stirring until the mixture is bubbling. Add in the (oat) milk, one deciliter at a time, whisking to prevent lumps. Add in the (oat) cream and keep cooking until the sauce is thick and the flour is fully cooked. Fold in (vegan) cheese and season with salt, freshly cracked black pepper and grated nutmeg.
- Coat the bottom of a large and deep oven proof casserole. Throw in the store bought gnocchi and top it off with the browned plant based mince.
- Ladle in half of the tomato sauce, then layer on top the cooked eggplant. Continue by adding the rest of the tomato sauce and then the cheese sauce.
- Grate some more cheese on top if you wish, or just add some cinnamon and/or fresly grated nutmeg!
- Cook the casserole on medium rack in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top. I usually finish the browning by turning on the grill settings for a few mintues at the end of the cooking time!