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!
Cheesy Baked Italian Rice
- 100 grams 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 passata
- 50 ml 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 ball mozzarella sliced
- 60 grams parmesan grated
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. 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.
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!
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