Ultimate Broccoli Cheddar Casserole
I must admit that this Broccoli Cheddar Casserole recipe took me more than a few times to get right. But after perfection, I think it’s truly outstanding, even ULTIMATE! Some might think that it’s embarrassing that it took me a few times to get right, considering I’ve been developing recipes for almost a decade. After all, a casserole is about as basic as it gets right? RIGHT?!
I mean sure. If you are just stirring together stuff with a few cans of soup and popping it in the oven, that’s definitely true (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but making a broccoli cheddar casserole from scratch can be a lot harder than you might think.
It took a few stabs to nail down the right amount of rice (too much equals a brick) and the order of ingredients (can’t just stir everything together). The cool things are that A) I did all the work for ya. Just follow the steps ya’ll. And, B) you can make this well in advance and pop it in the oven to reheat and it’s maybe even better than the first time you bake it because of some unknown casserole law of nature.
I won’t call it the Best Ever, because any long time reader knows my thoughts on that, but it’s damn good. Your work will be well rewarded.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a large 9×13 baking dish.
- Blanch broccoli in salted boiling water for about 2 minutes until it’s bright in color. It should still be a bit crispy, not soggy at all. Remove and let cool.
- If you need to cook rice, you can do so in the broccoli water, but it’s easiest to use leftover rice. Once rice is cooked, measure out two cups of cooked rice.
- Add chopped bacon to a skillet over low heat, cook until pieces are crispy and fat is rendered, about 7-8 minutes. Then remove bacon and add breadcrumbs. Stir well until bread crumbs absorb the bacon grease and start to brown. Remove from heat.
- In a large pot (you can use the same one for cooking broccoli and rice – just wipe it out), add butter and melt over medium heat. Then add onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Add flour to the pot and stir. Cook for a minute or two, then add milk in 1/2 cup batches, stirring constantly to incorporate. Add cream last. Once mixture is together and warm, add rice. It’ll be a bit watery at this point, but will thicken while baking. Add mustard to mixture and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Pour your rice base into the prepared casserole dish. Top with broccoli florets. Then top with grated cheese, followed by bacon and breadcrumbs.
- Bake casserole at 350 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes until it’s bubbly and browned on top.
- Serve while warm!
How to Make Broccoli Cheddar Casserole with Rice
First, let’s just get this picture out of the way. This is WRONG. Very very wrong. It actually didn’t taste that bad but the proportions and toppings were just way off in my opinion.
Compare that to the nice clean layers and perfectly browned topping in the final broccoli cheddar casserole version and you’ll agree that I had a lot of work together from my first version to my last version here.
But let’s start with bacon. You could easily make this casserole vegetarian by just toasting the breadcrumbs in some olive oil, but bacon is delicious so unless you have a reason not to, I’d add it.
Crisp up the bacon in a skillet and then use the bacon grease to brown your bread crumbs over LOW heat so they don’t get too toasty.
You’ll obviously need broccoli for this recipe. A lot of it actually. You could use frozen, but fresh is better. Blanch it in some salted water for a few minutes and then remove it. It should have some crunch too it still.
Rice is the glue for this broccoli cheddar casserole. You can cook a batch in your broccoli water after blanching if you want or, even better, use leftover.
Actually measure the rice here people. The difference between two and three cups of rice in the casserole is the difference between perfection and brick of food.
Because I wanted to make this broccoli cheddar casserole from scratch that means I needed a sauce that wasn’t from a soup can. The sauce the casserole is a standard béchamel sauce, but with onions and garlic added in. Melt the butter and cook the onions and garlic until they are translucent. Then add in the flour.
Once that cooks for a minute or two add the milk slowly, whisking or stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Then the cream and mustard.
Season with salt and pepper and stir in your rice. It’ll look a bit watery at this point, but will thicken as it bakes.
The layers of this game are important. I actually don’t recommend stirring the broccoli and cheese into the rice base. Keeping stuff separate works better for this casserole.
Pour in your rice mixture into a buttered dish. Then layer on your broccoli and cheese.
Bacon and bread crumbs go last!
Bake for 25-30 minutes until it’s bubbling and the topping is browned.
Let it cool a bit before serving, but it’s best warm obviously!
This ultimate broccoli cheddar casserole recipe actually reheats beautifully. Feel free to make it in advance and warm it in a 300 degree oven until it’s heated through.
Fall is casserole season and this recipe is a keeper.