Beat the Wheat: Gluten-Free Cheesy Kale, Sausage and Rice Casserole

Casseroles = love, comfort, coziness, and simplicity. Having a good casserole in your hip pocket will make you the hit of your friends and neighbors!
By: Carol Blymire
AKA Let the Good Times Casserole

When you write about food for a living, people assume you make glamorous roast duck with fancy vegetables every night for dinner. While I can't speak for every food writer, I'll let you in on a little secret: I don't cook fancy food that often, and I eat a lot of casseroles. Sunday nights, you'll find me in the kitchen putting together some sort of casserole for dinner that night, or for lunch and dinner for the next few days. Casseroles are easy. They're awesome. They freeze well, they reheat easily and they offer comfort after a hectic day. Casseroles are melty and delicious and hearty.

I grew up with a mom who made casseroles. Many, many casseroles. That's what the '70s were all about — casserole recipes from the back of a soup can. Four or five ingredients, pasta or rice, a can of soup, breadcrumbs, some time in the oven and voila! Dinner was served! I will never deny my love for a good casserole. Now that I have celiac disease, I can't make casseroles with canned soups anymore (most have gluten in them), and breadcrumbs are verboten. Still, I love a good challenge, and enjoy trying different combinations of things in a deep baking dish on a Sunday night. There's something so comforting about pulling that bubbly and melty casserole out of the oven and spooning what you want into a bowl or onto a plate.

I suppose you could serve your casserole with a salad, but isn't this dish really all about wanting to feel cozy and taken care of? No fresh vegetables needed for that! Just this kale, sausage, tomato and cheese casserole, a big old glass of red wine and a night on the sofa watching your favorite Sunday night drama.

Cheesy Kale, Sausage and Rice Casserole

I like casseroles that have meat, vegetables, cheese and a starch. They make me feel like I'm having a well-balanced dinner all in one pot. You could almost use this recipe as a base recipe for nearly any kind of casserole. Swap out the sausage for ground lamb. Use Swiss chard instead of kale. Goat cheese might float your boat more than Havarti. Whatever your appetite, nothing draws a deeper sigh of contentment than a casserole!

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Level: Easy
1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, removed from casing
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups oyster or cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 large bunch lacinato kale, julienned
3 cups cooked white or brown rice
1 egg, lightly whisked
15 ounces ricotta cheese
6 ounces Havarti cheese
6 ounces Swiss or Jarlsberg cheese
1/2 cup grated Pecorino-Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large skillet, brown the sausage over medium heat until just cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Pour the olive oil into the skillet and toss in the onions, garlic, salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the tomatoes, mushrooms and kale, and stir well to combine. The kale will begin to wilt, and the mixture will start to bubble. Remove from heat.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked rice, egg, ricotta, Havarti and Swiss cheese. Stir well to fully incorporate. Mix in the sausage and the kale mixture and stir to combine.

Spoon into a large casserole dish, and top with Pecorino-Romano cheese. Bake for 40 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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