Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Is broccoli always on sale? It seems to be and since I love making dishes based on what’s on sale, I tend to serve a lot of broccoli. This broccoli and cheese casserole was a good side for pork chops with cranberry-thyme pan sauce, and a good snack the next day.

I’m sure I’m not alone in loving cheesy vegetable casseroles or gratins, but who really needs all that fat? This Cooking Light recipe is slightly healthier than most casseroles, but like many of their recipes, still relies on some fat for taste. That’s fine, everything in moderation, even fat. The serving size, according to the recipe, is 1 cup, and that contains 5.1 grams of fat, of which 3 grams are saturated. However, broccoli is a good source of calcium so that offsets the fat for me. Yeah, I’m an enabler.

The bechamel sauce is made without using butter. Maybe I did it carelessly but I had to work a little harder than I usually do to get out the lumps.

Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

You’ll need a large pot with lid, colander, large saucepan, whisk, 13×9″ baking dish and a small bowl.

  • 2 pounds broccoli florets, about 8 cups coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1-1/2 cup fat-free milk – I used 2% milk since that’s what we had
  • 1 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup (4 oz) reduced fat (2%) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup (2 oz) grated Parmesan cheese, divided – or less
  • 3 tablespoons diced roasted red bell pepper (or pimientos), drained
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup (or less) bread crumbs or garlic melba toast rounds, crumbed – I used a mixture of Panko and Italian bread crumbs. 1 cup, the original recipe amount, made the topping too dry.

Preheat oven to 400. Cook broccoli in boiling water until crisp tender, about 3-4 minutes. Don’t overcook; you really want crisp tender. Drain.

Place flour, salt and dry mustard in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add milk and chicken broth, whisking until blended. Cook for about 8 minutes or until it’s thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add cheddar and 6 tablespoons of Parmesan, stirring until melted. If you’re using “green can Parmesan” you can get away with 4 tablespoons. Stir in red bell peppers and black pepper. Add broccoli, tossing to coat.

Coat a 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon the broccoli mixture into dish.

Combine crumbs with 2 tablespoons of Parmesan and sprinkle evenly over broccoli mixture. Spray top of casserole lightly with cooking spray. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes or until bubbly and slightly golden-brown on top. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

You can make it ahead and warm it up in the oven, covered with foil.

Original recipe: Cooking Light, August 2006

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