Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sausage, Spinach & Brown Rice Casserole with Fresh Mozzarella

After creating Black Bean & Sweet Potato Casserole with Chicken & Quinoa I had had casseroles on the brain for days. I really wanted to come up with something that had Italian flavors this time, so I planned ahead and made a batch of my sauce the day before so I’d have some homemade sauce on hand. If you don’t have any leftover sauce available, not to worry, just use your favorite bottled sauce. I recommend selecting a roasted garlic variety to really enhance the flavor of your casserole. Think of it this way… If you wouldn’t heat it up and eat it over plain pasta, don’t use it ! I use the same method with the cottage cheese here as my previous casserole recipe, except this time I puree it with fresh basil and oregano to stick with my Italian theme. By pureeing the cottage cheese you create a smooth silky texture like that of melted, grated cheese. This is good for both your waistline and your arteries. While we’re on the topic of the cottage cheese mixture, if you don’t have fresh herbs, you could always use dried, just see my proportion suggestion below in ‘what you need’. This casserole freezes well and can be stored for up to 2-3 months. I like mine served with a little hot sauce and fresh torn basil.

What You Need:

¾ lb fully cooked sausage, sliced (I used roasted pepper & onion chicken sausage)
2 cups spaghetti sauce (I used this sauce )
1 ½ cups cooked brown rice (I eyeballed this, could have been close to 1 ¾ cups)
1 medium red onion, diced
1 – 16 oz bag frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed of its water
1 cup low fat cottage cheese, preferably low sodium
½ tomato, thinly sliced
4 oz fresh mozzarella (ovolini – egg size), drained and thinly sliced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup fresh basil, divided and torn or roughly chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1 Tbs fresh oregano, roughly chopped (or ½ tsp dried)
3-5 cloves garlic, minced (to taste)
2 tsp olive oil
¼ - ½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper, plus 2 pinches
2 pinches salt (about 1/8 tsp)

What To Do:

Preheat oven to 350*.

Next, preheat a large skillet over medium high heat with 2 tsp oil. Once hot, add the sliced sausage and sauté for 6-8 minutes or until deeply browned on both sides. Remove sausage from pan and set aside.

Add the onion to the skillet and reduce heat to medium. Sauté for 10-12 minutes, adding the garlic during the last minute of cooking. Season the mixture with 2 pinches of salt and pepper.

While the onion does its thing, puree the cottage cheese with ¼ - ½ tsp black pepper (to taste), oregano and half of the basil (roughly chopped) until smooth in your small food processor or blender.

Combine browned sausage, sautéed onion, brown rice, the cottage cheese mixture, spinach and egg in a large bowl. Stir gently to combine.

Spoon casserole into a large baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray and top with sliced mozzarella and tomato, alternating.

Cover and bake for 35-45 minutes with a foil lid loosely secured. You’ll know it’s time to take the lid of when small bubbles have formed at the sides of the baking dish.

Bake for an additional 15-18 minutes with the cover off or until golden brown at the edges. Serve with reserved basil, torn.

Serves 6

Bon Appétit!

1 comment:

Pam said...

It sounds comforting and delicious.