Broccoli Cheese Casserole (Gratinata)

With two kinds of creamy cheese, tender broccoli & fresh cherry tomatoes, this Broccoli Cheese Casserole is a tasty & healthy entree or side. And a fun way to celebrate Dairy Month with my blogging friends!
With two kinds of creamy cheese, tender broccoli & fresh cherry tomatoes, this Broccoli Cheese Casserole is a tasty & healthy entree or side.

Right now there are three food mantras in my life. Vegetables, calcium and flavor. And today’s Broccoli Cheese casserole hits all three! With two vegetables and two cheeses, it’s a bonanza of often shorted-changed nutrients!

And did I mention the whole family loves it? 

You see I’ve never believed in eating a food “because it’s good for you.” I do try to avoid foods that are unhealthy, but I want to eat out of love as well as health. And this seriously has both!

With two kinds of creamy cheese, tender broccoli & fresh cherry tomatoes, this Broccoli Cheese Casserole is a tasty & healthy entree or side.

What is a Gratinata?

This recipe began life as a green been casserole based on a recipe from Lidia Bastianich, who called it a Gratinata. Not familiar with the term? 

According to eHow, “to prepare a dish au gratin or as a gratinata is to finish it with a generous sprinkling of cheese, breadcrumbs and butter prior to baking.”

Sounds like a formula for tasty to me!

We liked the green bean original so much, I needed an excuse to serve it more often. And that’s how this Broccoli Cheese Casserole was born!

Broccoli topped with basil, fresh mozzarella, Parmesan and cherry tomatoes, Broccoli Cheese Casserole is perfect as a healthy side or main dish.

Why You’ll Love This!

Delicious. Loaded with cheese and some great Italian seasonings, you don’t even need to be a vegetable fan to think this is delicious!

Healthy. Lots of calcium.  Two veggies. Olive oil instead of butter. It will even make vegetarians happy. ‘Nuf said?

Versatile. This has everything you need for either a side dish or a main dish. While we started eating the original as a Thanksgiving green bean casserole substitute, it quickly grew beyond its original role!

With two kinds of creamy cheese, tender broccoli & fresh cherry tomatoes, this Broccoli Cheese Casserole is a tasty & healthy entree or side.

What You’ll Need

Ingredient Notes

  • Broccoli Florets.  This is the main ingredient in the dish.
  • Grape or Cherry Tomatoes. This adds freshness and extra nutrition.
  • Fresh Mozzarella. This adds rich cheesy goodness.  I use the small round balls if I can find them.  Otherwise I’ll cut up a log or large ball into bite-sized pieces.
  • Fresh Basil.  Adds flavor.  You can use 1 Tablespoon of dried basil if you can’t get fresh.
  • Grated Fresh Parmesan.  This adds more cheesy flavor and a punch of umami!
  • Salt.  Adds flavor.
  • Italian Bread Crumbs.  Enhances the flavor and adds a little crunch.  My homemade Italian Breadcrumbs are easy to make if you happen to be out.  Or consult that recipe and add some herbs to plain breadcrumbs.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Enhances the flavor, adds richness and moisture, helps the dish brown.

Special Tools

  • You’ll need a medium casserole dish or smaller Dutch oven for baking.

Step by Step Directions

Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli, bring back to a boil and cook for a couple minutes until still slightly crunchy, . Drain the broccoli and run under cool water to cool.Par-cook brooccoli

Place half of the broccoli, tomatoes, mozzarella, salt and basil in the casserole. Toss to combine, then top with half of the olive oil, Parmesan and bread crumbs.

Put half the ingredients in casserole

Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Top with remaining ingredients

Bake covered, then take off the cover when almost done to brown. Casserole is done when everything is warm and broccoli is tender.

Enjoy.

How to Serve

One of the delights of this Broccoli Cheese Casserole is that works well as a side or an entrée!

As a side dish, it goes well with just about any meat or poultry entrée. I especially like it with more basic entrées like Dutch Oven Roast Chicken or pork chops since it adds welcome flare to the meal. I’ve even served it at lunch as a side to a small sandwich or hearty soup.

When I serve Broccoli Cheese Casserole as an entrée, I usually let it stand solo—with all that cheese there’s little chance of feeling deprived! But a nice crusty bread or an herbed biscuit would also be delicious. And if it’s dinner time and we haven’t had our “five-a-day” (servings of fruit and vegetables), I may even add a simple green salad.

With two kinds of creamy cheese, tender broccoli & fresh cherry tomatoes, this Broccoli Cheese Casserole is a tasty & healthy entree or side.

Variations

If you love this as much as I do, you might want to try the Green Bean Casserole as well!

Going low carb or keto? Go with crushed pork rinds instead of the bread crumbs. They’re delicious! Just add in some extra Italian seasonings to turn them into low carb Italian “breadcrumbs”  (see my recipe for suggestions).

Prep & Leftovers

To streamline your preparation, you can lightly pre-cook your broccoli and cool it ahead of time. Be sure to only partially cook it or it will be overly soft in the final dish. Or use frozen broccoli, which you don’t need to pre-cook, just thaw and add.

Though I haven’t tried it, I suspect you could even pre-assemble the whole casserole the day before except for the final bread crumbs.

Store leftovers covered and eat within a few days. If you need to freeze leftovers, they will be softer when thawed. In that case, I’d reheat and top with a fried egg or two for a nice breakfast.

BROCCOLI cheese casserole

Tips & FAQs

The biggest risk in this casserole is overcooking the broccoli. I very briefly pre-cook raw broccoli but thaw and use frozen broccoli without any pre-cooking.

A good test for doneness is to first check that the cheese is softened–it doesn’t need to fully melt. Then check a cherry tomato to see if it is heated through and test that the broccoli is tender.

I especially love preparing this in the fall—the bountiful days of stuffed CSA boxes or overzealous farmers market trips. You can clear out a refrigerator full of broccoli and cherry tomatoes pretty quickly!

Monday #DairyMonth Recipes

With two kids of creamy cheese, tender broccoli & fresh cherry tomatoes, this Broccoli Cheese Casserole is a tasty & healthy entree or side.

Broccoli Cheese Casserole (Gratinata)

Yield: 4-8

With two kinds of creamy cheese, tender broccoli & fresh cherry tomatoes, this Broccoli Cheese Casserole is a tasty & healthy entree or side.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 cups of broccoli florets (depending on casserole dish size)
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1-inch cubes (or small fresh mozzarella balls)
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly or 1 Tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 cup grated fresh Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup dry Italian bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli, bring back to a boil and cook for a couple minutes until still medium crunchy, . Drain the broccoli and run under cool water to cool.

Place half of the broccoli, tomatoes, mozzarella, salt and basil in the casserole. Toss to combine, then top with half of the olive oil, Parmesan and bread crumbs, Prepeat with the remaining ingredients.

Cover and bake the casserole at 350 F, for 20-30 minutes until everyything is heated through and broccoli is tender. Take off the cover when almost done to allow top to brown slightly. Serve hot in the baking dish.

Notes

A good test for doneness is to first check that the cheese is softened–it doesn’t need to fully melt. Then check a cherry tomato to see if it is heated through and test that the broccoli is tender.

Originally published May 18, 2017

24 thoughts on “Broccoli Cheese Casserole (Gratinata)

  1. Marcelle

    I actually have everything on hand today to make this, and I’m really looking forward to this casserole! It’s light, but flavorful and so colorful too!

  2. Julie

    Love the combination of flavors in this casserole. We will definitely be eating this as a main dish this summer.

  3. Maria

    This recipe is amazing! Definitely a repeat in my house as both a side and a main. One minor complaint though… I couldn’t for the life of me find the oven temp on the recipe, so I went to the recipe for the green bean dish and grabbed it from there. Worked out great. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Inger Post author

      Thanks for catching this Maria–updating now. Smart of you to grab it from the green bean recipe and happy you enjoyed it!

    1. Inger Post author

      You know you’re right David–almost like healthy comfort food. Guess that’s not an oxymoron!

    1. Inger Post author

      I was very happy when I came upon this solution Juliana! You have a great week too!

    1. Inger Post author

      Guess you’ll have to try them both Grace–especially now that you are eating so healthy!

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