Cheesy Broccoli and Cheese Casserole is a classic, crowd-pleasing dish that is perfect for any gathering. Whether you are hosting a family dinner, potluck, or holiday event, this delicious casserole is sure to be a favorite. It combines the tasty flavors of fresh broccoli and rich, creamy cheese sauce. This recipe is not only simple and easy to make, but it also has an interesting history and cultural significance.
- 6 cups fresh broccoli florets
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 cup crushed Ritz crackers (or breadcrumbs)
Step by Step Instructions
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli florets and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until slightly tender. Drain well and transfer the cooked broccoli to the prepared baking dish.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, creating a roux. Continue cooking the roux for 1 to 2 minutes, until it is lightly golden in color.
- Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Simmer the sauce until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese. Season with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, if using.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the broccoli in the baking dish, ensuring that the broccoli is completely covered. Top with the remaining 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese and the crushed crackers or breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown on top. Allow the casserole to cool for a few minutes before serving.
Cheesy Broccoli and Cheese Casserole has a unique history dating back to the early 20th century. The concept of a casserole can be traced back to French cuisine, where it was originally a slow-cooked stew of meat and vegetables. The dish began to gain popularity in the United States during this time due to the invention of canned soup and the increasing use of refrigeration.
Casseroles soon became synonymous with comfort food and family gatherings. The easy preparation and convenient ingredients quickly made them a favorite dish for busy families. The combination of broccoli and cheese is particularly popular in American cuisine, with numerous variations in the type and amount of cheese used.
Broccoli was not widely popular in the US until the 1920s when immigrants from Italy began cultivating the vegetable and introducing it to the local food culture. It has since become a staple ingredient in many dishes, from salads to stir-fries. The cheese sauce featured in this recipe is reminiscent of a classic French Mornay sauce, which is a béchamel sauce (made with roux and milk) enriched with grated cheese.
The popularity of this dish continues today as a comforting, versatile casserole that appeals to both children and adults alike. This crowd-pleasing dish is a testament to the power of simple and delicious ingredients, as well as the shared culinary heritage of different cultures.