Wondering what amazing side dish you can make for your holiday feast that takes little time to put together and can be made ahead of time? This creamy and cheesy Make-Ahead Broccoli Rice Casserole is the perfect solution! It is sure to become your most requested casserole.
I’ve been making this casserole for as long as I can remember for not only holiday gatherings but also potluck dinners. It never ceases to bring rave reviews even from those who profess to hate broccoli! In addition, I sometimes make it with leftover ham or turkey to produce an awesome one-dish meal.
When I first made this casserole, I used Minute Rice. Subsequently, I’ve used cooked long-grain rice. Both Minute Rice and cooked rice works well for this dish. Either way, the rice adds both creaminess and texture to this casserole.
Broccoli Florets versus Broccoli Pieces
I also use frozen broccoli florets as opposed to fresh broccoli. While fresh broccoli would work, I like the consistency and tenderness that frozen broccoli provides. In addition, the frozen broccoli is already cut up and ready to use.
However, there is a huge difference between using broccoli florets and broccoli pieces. The broccoli florets are just that – they are the tender dark green clumps at the end of the broccoli stalks. Frozen broccoli pieces include some of the tender florets and a lot of the more fibrous stalks. One time, I made the mistake of using frozen broccoli pieces as opposed to the broccoli florets. The casserole was filled with tough chewy pieces of broccoli stalks that just weren’t very appealing.
I used the following ingredients for this delicious casserole: Frozen broccoli florets, cream of mushroom soup, Velveeta cheese, cooked long-grain rice, Cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs and unsalted butter. For the broccoli florets, I made sure that they were actually florets and not just the tough stalks!
When I first started making this amazing casserole, I could purchase the frozen broccoli in 16 ounce packages. Now, all that I can find is 12 ounce packages. I still use 16 ounces, which means that I need to purchase two packages and use part of one to equal 16 ounces!
In addition, I used to use Minute Rice. However, I’ve found that using regular cooked long-grain rice works just as well with no changes in the other ingredients.
Making the Broccoli Casserole
To start, I added the broccoli florets to a pan of salted boiling water. As soon as the water started boiling again, I poured the broccoli into a colander. Then, I rinsed it with cold water to stop the cooking, and let it drain.
The reason for the minimal cooking of the broccoli at this point is that I can’t stand broccoli when it’s overcooked. I think that broccoli is best when it’s crisp tender.
While the broccoli was draining, I heated the cream of mushroom soup and Velveeta cheese in a large saucepan over medium heat until the cheese melted.
Next, I added the drained broccoli and rice to the cheese sauce, and stirred to combine everything.
Have leftover ham or turkey? Add 2 cups of cubed ham or turkey to the broccoli and rice mixture at this point for a company worthy after Thanksgiving treat!
I poured the mixture into a casserole dish and sprinkled on some shredded Cheddar cheese and breadcrumbs. Next, I dotted it with a bit of butter. Here’s the make ahead part – at this point, you can cover the casserole with aluminum foil and refrigerate it for up to two days before baking it!
I popped the casserole into a 350° F oven the casserole for 30 minutes until it was hot and bubbly and the top was golden brown.
All in all, with creamy and cheesy goodness, easy Make Ahead Broccoli Casserole is the perfect side dish for your annual holiday family gatherings. By the way, if by chance you have any leftovers, which is doubtful, this reheats extremely well. Yum!