Did you know that cheddar cheese isn’t actually orange? It’s really white, and they add orange coloring to make it orange. We’ve been duped all along. I know.
I opted for cheddar without coloring, so this broccoli cheddar casserole may not look like the kind you grew up eating. It’s also far healthier than typical Midwestern broccoli cheddar casseroles while still being gloriously cheesy and creamy. No cup of mayonnaise, no cream of mushroom soup, no annoying Béchamel sauce to make.
Casseroles aren’t my typical fare, but they do hit the spot on cold, gray winter days. My broccoli cheddar version here features tons of caramelized roasted broccoli for extra flavor, some milk and cheese, and quinoa that magically blends into creamy oblivion while it’s in the oven. Top all of that with some garlicky breadcrumbs and you have one amazing dish that makes for great leftovers.
You can be fancy and call it a “grah-tahnnnn” in your best French accent, or announce it as a “hot dish” in your finest Minnesotan. Either way, it’s a stellar broccoli casserole!
- 2 cups vegetable broth or water
- 1 cup quinoa (any color), rinsed under running water in a mesh sieve for a minute and drained
- 16 ounces broccoli florets, either pre-packaged or sliced from 2 large bunches of broccoli
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 10 twists of freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, omit if sensitive to spice
- 8 ounces (about 2½ cups) freshly grated cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 cup low-fat milk (cow's milk tastes best but unsweetened plain almond milk works, too)
- ½ tablespoon butter or 1½ teaspoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 slice whole wheat bread (substitute gluten-free bread for a gluten-free casserole)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup.
- To cook the quinoa: Bring the vegetable broth or water to boil in a heavy-bottomed, medium-sized pot. Add the quinoa, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 17 to 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Cover and set aside to steam for 10 minutes.
- To roast the broccoli: Slice any large broccoli florets in half to make bite-sized pieces. Transfer the broccoli to your prepared baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, until lightly coated on all sides. Sprinkle with salt and arrange in a single layer. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the broccoli is tender and starting to caramelize on the edges.
- To make the breadcrumbs: Tear your piece of bread into bite-sized pieces and toss them into a food processor or blender. Process until the bread has broken into small crumbs. In a small pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, stirring often. Add the bread crumbs and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly browned and crisp. Set aside to cool. (If you cooked your bread crumbs in a cast iron skillet, transfer them to a bowl to prevent them from burning.)
- Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Add the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to the pot of quinoa, and stir to combine. Set aside ¾ cup of the cheese for later, then add the cheese to the pot. Pour in the milk and stir until the cheese and milk are evenly incorporated in the quinoa.
- Pour the cheesy quinoa into a 9-inch square baking dish and top with the roasted broccoli. Stir until the broccoli is evenly mixed in with the quinoa. Sprinkle the surface of the casserole with the reserved ¾ cup cheese, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top.
- Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes, until the top is golden. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Storage suggestions: Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 days. Gently reheat in the oven or microwave before serving.