With two kinds of cheese, green beans and cherry tomatoes, this Cheesy Green Bean Casserole is a tasty and healthy side or even a light entrée!
Originally published Nov 1, 2015
You’ve got to love classic recipes like Green Beans Almandine. Or French Onion Green Bean Casserole. But sometimes you have to shake things up–and this recipe for Cheesy Green Bean Casserole is more than up to the challenge.
The dish is known lovingly in our family as “that green bean dish with the cheese and tomatoes,” and has been appearing on our Thanksgiving table for years. Originally named Green Bean Gratinata, the recipe came, via my sister-in-law, from celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich.
Yes, I wanted to serve this tasty casserole more often, especially in fall when the green beans and cherry tomatoes runneth over! And while I knew it would be popular with the family, what I didn’t expect was how easily it came together. I simplified the instructions, reduced the fat slightly and came up with a fresh basil alternative for when I don’t have it around.
But in the end, what really put the dish over the top was when I realized I could also serve it as a dinner entrée. With all the protein in the cheese, you don’t need to add turkey or ham or a sandwich at all!
What is a Gratinata (the original name)
Out of curiosity, I decided to look for a definition for “gratinata.” The closest I came was that it was Italian for “au gratin,” which led me to the following from Wikipedia
Gratin is a culinary technique in which an ingredient is topped with a browned crust, often using breadcrumbs, grated cheese, egg or butter. Gratin is usually prepared in a shallow dish of some kind.
Now in truth, I don’t always take the lid off the casserole to let it get a crustier top. In fact, usually not, since I’m often faced with a hungry family banging their forks. But I can testify it’s good either way!
What Makes This a Winner
Not many dishes have been consistently served in our house for over a decade! This one is:
- Family Pleaser – Cheesy Green Bean Casserole is cheesy for Junior, rich for Grandma, vegetarian for collegians and just plain tasty for foodies. How can you go wrong!
- Nutrition Powerhouse – I love when you get more than one vegetable in a dish. And your bones will thank you for the calcium in the cheese.
- Uses Local Ingredients – With green beans and cherry tomatoes in abundance, this is a perfect fall dish for a locavore!
- Versatile as a Side or Entrée – While we started eating this as a Thanksgiving side, I quickly realized how well it works when you want a light and healthy entrée. And on the odd chance I have leftovers, I love to reheat for an easy lunch!
Step by Step Directions
Bake the casserole, covered, until heated through. Serve.
What to Serve With
If you are serving this as a side dish… well, it works with almost anything! Truly, any meat entree would be great with this from steak to seafood to chicken. And for lunch or simpler eating, I’ve recently served it with sandwiches and even a “hot pocket”.
With all the cheese, this casserole has enough protein to work as a light entree all by itself–just serve bigger portions! In that case a crusty bread would round it out for heartier eaters. And to really put the nutrition over the top, you can always add a salad.
Tips and Substitutions
Fresh mozzarella comes in many forms from logs and large balls to small balls, sometimes in water or oil. In the end they all work well. You will need to drain first if in water or oil and large balls or logs will need to be cut into 1 inch pieces.
Did you know that fresh mozzarella freezes well? I wouldn’t freeze the balls in oil or water (the expansion of the soaking liquid might even burst the container) but the solid blocks are beautiful when thawed.
If you’re out of basil, you can use Italian breadcrumbs or add a spoonful of Italian seasoning to panko or plain bread crumbs. This will compensate for the missing basil so effectively that there’s no need for a trip to the store!
Can I use frozen or fresh green beans? I have used both with success. The fresh green beans need to be pre-cooked, but the frozen may or may not need this. If they seem tender after thawing, you are good to go.
If using fresh green beans, be sure they are truly tender, since they don’t soften much more in the casserole. And beware of tough green beans in the first place. Occasionally I’ll get some off the farm that won’t get soft even with extensive cooking. Believe me, your kids will complain if they bite into a tough green bean (ask me how I know!).
And if you’d like to try a version with broccoli, check out my Broccoli Cheese Casserole!
One Pot Wonders
- Cheesy Green Bean Casserole with Cherry Tomatoes from Art of Natural Living
- Easy Kielbasa Cabbage Potato Skillet from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Easy One-Pot Mixed Millets and Dal Khichdi from Magical Ingredients
- Instant Pot Butter Beans and Country Ham from Palatable Pastime
- One Pot Cheeseburger Pasta from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
- One-Pot Stove Top Mac and Cheese from Cheese Curd In Paradise
- Rustic Chicken and Sausage White Bean Stew from Blogghetti
- Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup from The Spiffy Cookie
- 1 1/2 pounds frozen or fresh green beans, trimmed
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 3/4 pound cherry tomatoes (about 3 cups)
- 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella (block form or small cigcigline balls, drained)
- 6 large fresh basil leaves (see note for substitution)
- 2/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan
- 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup dry bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan
Preheat to 375 degrees F.
If using fresh green beans, cut into bite sized pieces and cook (boil or microwave) until they are just tender, 4-8 minutes. Drain and partially cool by running cold water over the beans. If using frozen green beans, thaw and pre-cook briefly if not tender.
Julienne the basil leaves by rolling them up and slicing into thin ribbons. Cut the fresh mozzarella into 1 inch pieces if needed. Drain if in water or oil.
In a 2- or 3-quart baking dish or Dutch oven, combine the casserole ingredients and stir to combine. Sprinkle the topping ingredients over the top.
Bake the casserole, covered, until heated through. If your green beans were warm to start, this will be about 25 minutes. If cold, about 40 minutes.
(Optional) Remove lid of casserole and increase oven temperature to 400F to let the topping brown more, 5-10 minutes.
Serve hot in the baking dish.
If you're out of basil, you can use Italian bread crumbs instead of plain, or add a spoonful of Italian seasoning to the plain bread crumbs.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 252
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