Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cheesy Eggplant & Orzo Casserole

Bear with me friends. This may not be the most attractive casserole I've ever made, but how often do casseroles really look beautiful? Seems to me, the very definition of casserole is a mass of different ingredients thrown together in a pot, cooked all at once, and then baked into bubbly goodness. Doesn't it make sense that a casserole wouldn't be the most photogenic baked good when you are just piling ingredients on top of each other? Well, that's how I justify it to myself :)

What this casserole lacks in the looks department, it more than makes up for in the taste category. To be honest with everyone, eggplant is not my favorite vegetable. I stuff them, and eh. I dredge them in a crunchy coating and bake them with marinara, and blah. I can take them or leave them. Not anymore! I finally found a recipe that makes excellent and delicious use of eggplant. Some even better news? The hubby adored this dish. We feel similarly about eggplant, and we felt similarly about this casserole. As in, keep it coming!

I changed the original recipe slightly. The source recipe calls for quinoa in place of the orzo, but I knew there was no way I was getting the hubby to eat eggplant and quinoa in one dish. No matter how I gussied it up. I decided to substitute orzo for the quinoa but you could substitute rice, brown rice, or even another grain, like farro. I got excellent results with the orzo however, the pasta provided a nice chew to the casserole. Since I knew the orzo would be baking in the casserole, I made sure I pulled the orzo from the heat while it was still a little al dente. Just so the end result wouldn't be a mouthful of overcooked pasta. 

Veggie lovers will love this dish. This is a vegetarian casserole, but I can almost bet you won't miss the meat. There's chopped onion and red pepper, sliced mushrooms, and of course, the eggplant. All tied together by a spicy tomato sauce and creamy cheese. Wow, I'm sad this casserole is long gone. I highly encourage everyone to make this one-pot wonder, you won't regret it. 

So, this bad girl did not tend to her herb garden yesterday. You can imagine what's first on my to-do list today. I didn't get a chance to make salsa yesterday either, so I guess that worked out for the best. I'll be making fresh salsa with fresh cilantro this morning. Obviously, I can't wait for the best part of that process... the taste test! I've been diligently watering my herbs, and still my oregano hath kicked the bucket. It was seriously weakened by all the wind we had this spring, and I wasn't sure it was going to make it anyway. It will just have to end up making good compost. I may get a start at Lowe's and plant it in it's place. Oh, and I wanted to warn everyone. My mint is growing like gangbusters, so expect some minty-fresh posts to start popping up. Man, I love summer :)

Looks like we are in for some blustery Spring weather today, so I better head outside to get my chores done before the storms arrive. Happy Wednesday everyone!

Ingredients (serves 7-8):

2 cups cooked orzo (about 1 cup uncooked)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 large eggplant, cubed (you can peel your eggplant, if you prefer)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 (25 oz) jar of Arrabiata Sauce
1  1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup parsley, minced


1. Preheat oven to 375º. Lightly coat a 8 x 8 casserole pan with cooking spray.
2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. When warm, add onion and red pepper. Sauté 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms to the pan, sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Add eggplant, and sauté for 7-10 minutes, or until all veggies have softened. Add garlic to the pan, sauté for 30 seconds. 
3. In a separate non-stick pan, toast cooked orzo with crushed red pepper, pepper, and salt for 1-2 minutes. Set aside. 
4. Remove eggplant mixture from heat. Add Arrabiata sauce, orzo, and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Toss to combine.
5. Distribute a thin layer of vegetable mixture into casserole pan. Top with some mozzarella and a little parmesan. Repeat process until you have 3 layers. Evenly spread any remaining mozzarella and parmesan on top of the casserole. Bake, uncovered, in oven for 20-25 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbly. 
6. Remove from oven, and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Top with parsley. Serve immediately. 

Recipe adapted from See Brooke Cook.
Linked to: Weekend Potluck, Foodie Friday


  1. What a nice comforting home-cooked meal. Blessings, Catherine

  2. Attractive is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to food. I think it looks yummy. Reminds me of lasagna :)

    1. I totally agree, and I also thought it looked pretty good. LOL. The hubby made the not-so-attractive comment, making me question my eye for food... :)

  3. I planted eggplant in our garden for the first time this year…looking forward to using your recipe! Thanks for sharing…

    1. I bet this recipe would be fantastic with garden fresh eggplant, you'll have to let me know how it turns out :)

  4. No matter how it looks your casserole sounds delicious. We like this kind of thing very much at our house.

    1. I love dishes like this! A one-pot wonder, if you will :) Thanks for stopping by!


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