This baked Italian rice has been a long time coming! I first developed the recipe back at the beginning of the summer but wanted to save such a comforting meal for when the weather started to cool down. After all, it’s perfect comfort food!
There are a few elements to this recipe:
- regular cooked rice
- a rich tomato, herb and veggie sauce (and plenty of it!)
- layers of melty, gooey parmesan and mozzarella
In a way, it’s almost similar to my vegetable lasagna but with rice instead of pasta sheets!
Getting the rice ready to bake does take a little prep since you have to cook it first (or use leftovers or a microwave rice sachet – I’m not judging!). Plus you have to make and simmer the sauce with the veggies in. This is pretty easy though. Making the tomato sauce is really just adding things to the pan in the right order and then stirring occasionally while it simmers.
Once you’ve got your rice and sauce ready, you’re pretty much all set to bake! I decided to form mine into layers: rice and sauce, parmesan, rice and sauce, mozzarella. However, you can just add all your rice and sauce mix and then top it with all the cheese – whatever you prefer!
Of course, the veggies in the sauce for this are optional and open to substitution (aside from the onion – you can use a red one instead, but please don’t leave it out!). I chose to use bell pepper, courgette (zucchini) and black olives. However, you could also use aubergine (eggplant), tomatoes or so many others!
As it so happens, the herbs and chilli flakes in the sauce are also optional! I like a good, herby tomato sauce. However, if you don’t have the right herbs to hand or simply prefer a plainer sauce then feel free to leave them out!
The cheeses can also be substituted. I adore parmesan and mozzarella, but you could use almost any cheese – ricotta could work well for between layers of rice, and cheddar would definitely work either way! If you don’t like things too cheesy then I do recommend reducing the cheese though – I tend to use a ton!
You can also reheat this Italian rice provided you use freshly cooked rice (and not microwave rice either). As soon as leftovers are cool, store them in the fridge. To reheat, microwave until piping hot all the way through. Please do always follow food safety guidelines when reheating rice!
- 100 grams (1/2 cup, 3 oz) basmati rice, or other long grain white rice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1.5" courgette or zucchini, diced
- 3/4 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 tbsp double concentrate tomato puree
- 300 ml (1 1/4 cup, 10 oz) passata
- 50 ml (1/4 cup) water
- 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
- 1/4 tsp dried basil
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp dried parsley
- 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
- salt and pepper, to season
- 2 tbsp chopped basil leaves
- 12 black olives, halved
- 1x 220g (7 oz) ball mozzarella, sliced
- 60 grams (1/2 cup) parmesan, grated
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). In a saucepan, begin cooking the rice. In a separate large frying pan, add the olive oil over medium-low heat.
- Add the onion and garlic to the pan and soften for approximately 3 minutes. Add the courgette and soften for 2 minutes, then the diced pepper and soften for another 2 minutes. Add the tomato puree and stir to coat the veggies. Cook for one minute.
- Add the passata, water, dried herbs and chilli flakes and bring to simmer. Allow to simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until reduced. Season to taste. The rice should be cooked by this time.
- Once the sauce is reduced, add the rice, fresh basil and black olives and stir them in. Place half of this mixture in the base of the casserole dish(es). Top with parmesan, then add the remaining half of the rice mix and top with sliced mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is golden. Serve immediately.
To store in the fridge: allow to cool to room temperature, then immediately cover and place in the fridge. Reheat in the microwave until piping hot before consuming. Do not store for longer than 3 days.
To freeze: allow to cool to room temperature. Immediately cover and place in the freezer. Defrost in the fridge and reheat in the microwave until piping hot before consuming. Do not freeze for longer than 3 months.
Courgette and zucchini are the same thing - courgette is the UK word for it, zucchini is the US word.
Nutrition InformationYield 2 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 780Total Fat 44gSaturated Fat 21gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 19gCholesterol 113mgSodium 1564mgCarbohydrates 58gFiber 5gSugar 9gProtein 41g
All nutrition information is an estimate and may vary.
If you’re looking for more saucy baked rice dishes, try my cheesy Mexican rice bake. It isn’t vegetarian, but you can remedy that by substituting beef for any vegetarian mince/ground meat substitute.
This tomato risotto has plenty of veg and a saucy texture too – it’s delicious! Plus there’s plenty of cheese in there too! It’s rich, creamy and super comforting!
My cheesy leek bake is another side dish that’s perfectly cheesy and creamy – and it pairs well with so many different proteins or even just a nice combo of roasted veggies!
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