Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sicilian Rice Ball Casserole

Happy Mother's Day to all the mamas out there!  Yes, this is a day for women who have children, like my amazing mother, but I also like to think of myself as a mother to my sweet little rescues.  I have an orange chiffon cake cooling on the counter per Mom's request, and although our rainy Mother's Day get-together starts in about 15 minutes, I thought I could make a quick post.

I have officially run out of memories of the recipes I made in the month before I lost all data from my phone.  I am sure that there are some recipes that I am forgetting, so I will keep racking my brain, but for now, I'm starting anew with the first recipe photographed in my new phone.  Lucky for you, it is pretty darn awesome.

My family is big on rice balls (arancini for my fellow Italians).  We have even made them ourselves, frying balls of rice and cheese in oil.  Clearly this is not the healthiest of foods, but it's so good that it makes it okay.  Imagine how pumped I was when I saw that Skinny Taste created a recipe for a low fat rice ball casserole!  All the flavor and texture of a rice ball, with no frying, in a handy casserole format that reheats perfectly!  I whipped it up immediately.

It does call for ground turkey and sausage; on my fake meat kick, I used vegetarian ground beef and sausage.  It was extremely realistic; my entire family loved it and Nick and I split the leftovers (you know it's good when Nick asks for leftovers of your fake meal casserole!)  You carnivores out there can go ahead and use real meat, I suppose!

The rice gets mixed with an egg to keep it together, pecorino romano cheese, and a little sauce.  The meat turns into a meat sauce complete with onions and peas.  Then you spray your baking dish with oil and, very much like flouring the pan, you bread crumb it!  It helps to give the outside of the casserole that outside-of-a-rice-ball texture.  The rice becomes the first layer, going up the sides of the dish so that it encompasses all the meat sauce on the inside (see picture below).  Top it off with mozzarella, more rice, and more bread crumbs, and bake.

This is a healthy, hearty, filling and delicious dish.  To me, it was comfort food.  I will definitely make this baby again, preferably sooner rather than later!


Sicilian rice ball casserole
from Skinny Taste
serves 8

2 cups uncooked long grain rice
1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 2.5-ounce sweet Italian sausage link, casing removed
10 ounces 93% lean ground turkey
1/4 cup onion, minced
black pepper
5 ounces frozen peas
2 cups tomato sauce, divided
1 large egg, 1 egg white
1/2 cup pecorino romano (or Parmesan)
cooking spray
4 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs, divided
1 1/4 cups shredded part skim mozzarella, divided
fresh basil


1) Cook rice with 1 teaspoon kosher salt according to package directions.  Set aside to cool.

2) Meanwhile, saute sausage meat.  Cook until brown, breaking up into pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks.  Add turkey and onions and cook until browned, breaking up as it cooks.  Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste, then add peas and 1 cup sauce.  Simmer on low, covered, about 20 minutes.

3) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine cooked rice, pecorino romano, eggs, and 1/2 cup tomato sauce.  Mix well.  Rice should be a bit sticky.

4) Spray a 9x13" casserole dish with cooking spray, making sure to spray the sides too.  Add 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs to the dish and roll around to coat bottom and sides.

5) Take half of the rice mixture and cover the bottom of the dish and up the sides.  Press to form bottom layer.  Fill with meat and peas.

5) Top with 3/4 cup mozzarella. Cover with remaining rice and press until even.  Top with remaining sauce, 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup mozzarella.

6)Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes until hot.  Garnish with basil, cut unto pieces, and serve.

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