Broccoli & Cheese Casserole
Serves 4 of us, with some leftovers.
|Not the prettiest picture. Trust me - it tastes MUCH better!|
- 1 1/2 c. uncooked penne pasta (Or any similar sized & shaped pasta.)
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil (I've made it without the oil and it turns out fine.)
- 2 tsp. salt (I use Kosher, so you may need to lower the amount if you use table salt)
- 2 c. fresh broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces (You can also use 14 oz. frozen broccoli.)
- 3 Tbsp. butter (I've never tried this with margarine because we don't use it.)
- 3 Tbsp. flour (I use all-purpose. I'm not sure how other flours would work.)
- 1 1/2 c. milk (We use whole milk.)
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
- 1/2 tsp. dry thyme*
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 to 1 tsp. Kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. powdered garlic, or 1 clove minced garlic
- 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese** (NOT the powdery stuff in the can!)
- 1 c. shredded Swiss cheese**
- 2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped (Use any herbs that sound good to you. I use these because I have a TON of them growing right outside my door.)
- 1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped (This is a must, in my opinion.The parsley gives a rather heavy-tasting meal the freshness that it needs, especially when it's hot outside.)
- 1/2 c. Mozzarella cheese**
**The types and amounts of cheese can be changed. I don't really measure them and I don't always use the same kinds of cheese. Cheddar, Colby, and jack work well, too. I strongly suggest keeping the Parmesan, though!
- Preheat oven to 350°F. (Easy enough, so far!)
- Bring about 2 qt. water to a boil with the olive oil and salt. Cook pasta until al dente, then drain. This can be done while you're doing the rest of the steps to save time. Make sure the pasta isn't over-cooked because it'll absorb some sauce (and flavor!) while it's baking.
- Put broccoli into a microwave-safe dish with about 1/4" - 1/2" of water in the bottom. Cook until done (my microwave has a "fresh vegetables" setting that cooks it perfectly in 6 1/2 minutes.) This, too can be done while working on the rest of the steps.
- In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Let it melt, then wait for the bubbles to form and dissipate. This is the excess water leaving the butter. If you're using margarine, this won't happen. Using a wire whisk, add flour and whisk well. It'll turn into a thick paste.
- When the butter and flour turn a blond color, remove pan from heat. While whisking constantly, slowly add the milk in a steady stream. It will turn into what looks like chunky dough at first, but as you add more milk, it will become liquid again.
- Add the Bay leaf, mustard, thyme, salt, pepper, and garlic. (I've added a couple tablespoons of finely chopped onion at this point a few times and it turned out well.)
- Return pan to heat (medium) and, while stirring, bring to a boil. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens a little. It won't be as thick as gravy.
- Remove from heat for the last time and add the Parmesan & Swiss cheeses. Stir well. Fold in the pasta, broccoli, basil, and parsley.
- Dump it all into a greased/sprayed 8" X 8" casserole pan. (Mine holds 2 qts., if that helps you figure out which pan to use!)
- Sprinkle the top with Mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for 20 minutes (uncovered). Let it stand a good 10 minutes after you take it out of the oven. It allows it to cool and the cheese sauce will thicken a little.
If you try this recipe, I'd love to know what you think of it. Also, let me (and other readers) know if you changed anything and how it turned out.