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Broccoli + Cheese Rice Casserole

Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Gluten Free
  • Vegetarian
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Why we love it:

Due to this cooking community’s feedback, I try to keep almost all of our recipes under 30 minutes. This one is twice that. However, you can prep this days in advance or even freeze it for up to 3 months, then simply pop in the oven to cook through. I think it’s an excellent investment in your future to have a dish that takes time now, but no work whatsoever in a few days. *To scale the portion size of this dish, see substitutions list*


  • 1 Yellow Onion (small dice)
  • 3 Carrots (small dice)
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt (divided)
  • 112 cups Basmati Rice (White)
  • 12 cup Orzo Pasta (uncooked)
  • 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Thyme (plus more for topping)
  • 4 cups Vegetable Stock (chicken stock if you have/use that)
  • 1 bunch Broccoli (roughly chopped, stems and florets, it should be about 3-4 cups)
  • 12 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 12 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (to taste)
  • 12 teaspoon Black Pepper (freshly cracked)
  • 8 ounces Cheddar Cheese (shredded, divided)
  • 12 Lemon (zest only)
  • 12 cup Whole Milk

Cooking Instructions


    Peel and dice the onion into small dice. Scrub and dice the carrots into a similar size.

    Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the veggies and a pinch of salt and cook for about 2 minutes so they begin to sizzle a bit.

  • 3. RICE + ORZO

    Measure out the rice and orzo. Add to the pot with the butter and cook until the grains are lightly golden and toasted, about 3 - 4 minutes. Meanwhile, strip the thyme leaves from the woody stems using your thumb and forefinger. Add the thyme leaves, reserving a few for garnish later.

  • 4. STOCK

    Add the stock and bring to a boil over high heat.


    While you’re waiting for the boil, chop the broccoli. Chop up the florets but also dice some of the stem. Use the paler green parts and if there are any browned or woody parts, you can trim that off. If you have more broccoli than you can use, either reserve some florets for a simple side dish another night and go stem heavy, or reserve the stems and look up the Broccoli Soup recipe.

    Add the broccoli to the pot with the garlic powder, cayenne, and the rest of the salt and the pepper.

    Bring to a boil again, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook covered for 20-25 minutes, until the rice is mostly cooked through.

  • 6. CHEESE

    If you didn’t buy it shredded, now’s the time to grate the cheddar.


    Once the rice is cooked, stir in the lemon zest, milk, and ½ cup of cheese. Transfer the mixture to a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over top the casserole and add any reserved thyme leaves.

    (if refrigerating or freezing - stop here).

  • 8. BAKE

    Transfer to the oven and bake 15 - 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown.

    *If you prepped ahead, place dish on the counter while the oven heats and bake for up to 25 - 30 minutes to heat through.

    *If you froze it, make sure to defrost at least overnight and for up to 3 days before baking.

  • 9. SERVING

    Scoop generous portions into bowls or shallow plates. Leftovers are simply heated in the microwave.

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    since this is a casserole, the portion matters and it’s not easy to scale up or down. As written this will serve 4 - 6. If you have fewer mouths to feed then, I recommend making it all and baking it in 2 or 3 smaller dishes. You can wrap 2 up well and store them in the freezer for later! If you try to cut the recipe in half, be sure that the rice cooks most of the way through on the stovetop before transferring to a smaller dish
    use coconut or cashew milk instead of cow milk, omit the cheese and butter
    use an alternative milk and a sheep or goat milk cheese, if you use a soft cheese, you can add it all to the rice when transferring to the casserole dish and no need to top it with more cheese
  • PALEO:
    not the best candidate for a paleo alteration, perhaps search the site for a different dish. That said, trying to bake a casserole with cauliflower rice or shredded spaghetti squash may just be delicious. Reduce sauté time to about 5 - 10 minutes only before transferring to the casserole. (I have not specifically tested this but am relying on past experience - proceed with curiosity and common sense)
    add cubes of chicken or sausage with the onions. Ground beef, pork or turkey would also work out well, sautéed with the onions in the first step
    perhaps omit the cayenne. When serving, some kids may prefer the broccoli separated out to the side or no cheese on top, but overall this should be a happy night for many kids

Prep Ahead & Use It Up

  1. Make the entire thing and don’t do the final bake
  2. Or make and bake it and serve as “leftovers” all week
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