Broccoli and Rice Casserole spells winter for me. It is such a comforting dish, and also nostalgic. This was a staple on my office cafeteria menu in the Midwest, and was just the right thing for cold windy days. The word ‘casserole’ is a tough one, because there is no specific meaning to it. In India, a casserole is a container that keeps things hot, and was all the rage in the 80s and 90s.
As far as I can tell, a casserole is anything which is baked with lots of cheese. So we have tuna noodle casseroles, pasta bakes, lasagnas etc. broadly falling in this category. For a great casserole, you start with something made in a cheesy sauce and then pile more cheese on top. Sound good to you?
This recipe for broccoli and rice casserole is a ‘fake bake’ in a way. This is because most of the ingredients are already cooked. Old fashioned recipes just layer ingredients and then pour egg based liquid over the top. The oven takes care of the rest. But since we are not using eggs, and since my oven is fledgling at best, I am going for the easier option. You can finish the dish off in a microwave too. You just won’t get the browning effect you get from a broiler.
Broccoli is hard to find and very expensive in Pune, generally 5 times the price of ordinary vegetables. So I don’t leave any opportunity to make the most of this favorite cruciferous vegetable.
The recipe for Broccoli and rice casserole is as follows –
Broccoli Rice Casserole recipe is vegetarian and eggless. This casserole is perfect for rainy or cold nights. Can be made ahead and refrigerated. Just pop in the oven an hour before dinner.
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 1 cup mushrooms sliced
- 1 cup red/yellow/orange peppers
- 1 small onion chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 2 cups rice
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 3 cups milk+ broth
- 3 cups grated cheese
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 Tbsp oil/ butter
- ½ tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp dried parsley
- ¼ tsp dried oregano
- Salt to taste
- Chop all vegetables as needed. You can use one colored pepper or a combination of any color. Slice mushrooms and break the broccoli into florets. You can also use frozen florets.
- Cook rice with 4 cups of water or water/ veggie broth combination. Cooking rice in broth will make this very flavorful. Actually, we want the rice to be 80% cooked only, so I suggest using more water and sort of boiling the rice. Remove excess water, drain and set aside.
- Add butter to a large pan. Add crushed garlic and stir until golden. Take care not to burn the garlic.
- Add the chopped onions first, then the mushrooms and peppers.
- After vegetables soften slightly, add the flour and mix well. Stir for 2-3 minutes until flour gets cooked.
- Add a mixture of milk and water, milk and broth or just milk gradually to the flour. The way to avoid lumps is to do this on a low flame, whisking with one hand as you slowly pour the mixture with the other.
- Keep whisking until sauce comes to a boil and simmer until it thickens. Now add half the cheese and stir until the cheese partially melts. You can use processed cheese or any cheese mix of choice. My choice for this dish is cheddar. Add all the spices like pepper flakes, dried herbs etc.
- Switch off heat and now mix in the drained rice and blanched broccoli florets.
- Take a casserole dish – I use a 9x9 Pyrex baking dish. Grease the dish on all sides.
- Mix breadcrumbs and olive oil and add some seasoning to it if you wish. You can add pepper and herbs, the same flavors we used for the casserole. Mix well.
- Now transfer the cheesy rice and veggie mixture slowly to the baking dish. Stop after filling 30%, sprinkle some cheese in a layer, add more rice mixture and layer cheese again until the dish is full. Spread the breadcrumbs on top. If you have rice mixture left over like I did, repeat the process with another baking dish.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F or 180C. Place the baking dish in the center and bake for about 40 minutes until it is hot and bubbly. The top will brown gradually.
- Switch on the broiler for 5-10 minutes to get a crunchy top.
- Serve hot and enjoy.
This casserole makes a Lot of servings and the leftovers taste great too. Try this and let me know what you think!