Zucchini Musakka with Tomatoes and Chickpeas

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The word musakka (spelled moussaka in Greece, and mussak'a in Lebanon and Syria) describes different dishes in different countries. This southern Turkish version has been popularized by Musa Dagdeviren, a tall, talkative, playful Turkish chef who does more miraculous things with vegetables than anyone else I know. His restaurant, Ciya, on the Asian side of Istanbul, is a national treasure house of Turkish regional food. Every foodie in Istanbul raves about Musa’s cooking and the opportunity he provides to taste regional specialties never before served in the city. His musakka is an assembly of summer vegetables (tomatoes and zucchini) packed into a thick, deep Turkish clay pot called a guvec, covered with a thin veil of mashed garlic and lemon juice and garnished with some warmed mint-scented olive oil just before being set in the oven. The dish bakes until the vegetables are fully cooked and the oil has browned the top lightly. After baking the musakka is left to cool, to be served at room temperature with a good spoonful of yogurt mixed with garlic and parsley.

NotesIf using an electric or ceramic stovetop, be sure to use a heat diffuser with the clay pot.


Cooking Methodbaking, sauteeing



Total Timeunder 1 hour

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Mealdinner, lunch

Taste and Textureherby, light, meaty, savory

Type of Dishgratin


  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise ¾ inch thick
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces ground lamb
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cups crushed tomatoes or 1 can (14 ounces) fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons Turkish sweet red pepper paste
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon mashed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons dried mint, finely crushed
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • A 3-or 4-quart guvec, La Chamba or flameware casserole, or deep cazuela


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

  2. In a large bowl, combine 6 cups water and 2 tablespoons kosher salt and stir until dissolved. Add the zucchini and soak for 15 minutes. (This ensures that the skin will remain green and the white flesh will remain crisp during cooking.) Drain and pat dry, pressing gently to remove as much moisture as possible.

  3. 3 In the guvec, heat half of the olive oil with the lamb over medium-low heat. When everything is hot, raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until the meat loses its redness, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes.

  4. Stir the crushed tomatoes and the pepper paste into the meat. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring, until well coated with the tomato. Stir in the chickpeas and season with salt and pepper. Mix the garlic and lemon juice to a smooth paste and brush over the contents of the guvec. Quickly heat the remaining olive oil in a small conventional skillet. Add the crushed mint; stir for an instant. Sprinkle over the vegetables. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

  5. Serve at room temperature with an accompanying bowl of yogurt mixed with the chopped parsley.


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