Here’s my grown up version - from scratch broccoli casserole that’s perfect for the holidays or special occasions. This is totally worth the calories and you’ll come back for seconds. It's comfort food at its best. Really, this is the best broccoli casserole you’ll ever have.
Read on if you want to know why and how this came about.
In the food blog world, when a recipe is described as easy and basically no work, you get the clicks. But if you want flavor and want the food to be worth the calories in every bite, sometimes (not always) you need to do a few extra steps. This is the case for my recipe for broccoli casserole.
Broccoli casserole is a dish I make for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter every year. It’s a dish I first tried when I first dated my husband. The recipe used canned mushroom and cheese soups, mayo, eggs, and onions mixed together then poured over frozen broccoli layered with cheddar cheese. It was topped with a stuffing mix with melted butter and cooked in a crockpot all day.
It was good (so I thought) and I made it like that every Thanksgiving and Christmas for years.
THIS IS NOT THAT CASSEROLE. THIS IS SUPERIOR IN EVERY WAY.
It seems that as we grow older our tastes change. I was making that recipe one Thanksgiving day, and as I plopped the canned cheese soup in the bowl, I was mesmerized by the way it jiggled back and forth. It actually put me in a trance.
The images that popped into my head made me cringe because none were flattering, not to mention that neon orange color. What the hell was I thinking?
When I had my kids, I wanted to use real ingredients and those canned soups had too many things that weren’t real enough for me.
That casserole was cooked for hours in a crockpot and I found it always turned to mush. I like my broccoli soft and not crunchy, but that was like baby food.
FROM SCRATCH BROCCOLI CASSEROLE MADE WITH REAL INGREDIENTS
From scratch broccoli casserole is basically made with a cheese sauce that’s not hard to make. You start with a bechamel and stir in the cheese. Please grate your cheese. It takes a few minutes and it’s worth it.
I flavor it a bit with a little white wine to brighten it up a bit. There’s a lot of fat there and it needs some acid.
Since we’re not using canned soup, we will need to add some salt to make everything taste good. Not as much as the canned stuff but a good good good pinch.
Now for the broccoli…
Frozen broccoli was always used to make that broccoli casserole. It was convenient because the florets are already cut and proportioned and there was no need to thaw before cooking. IF YOU USE FROZEN BROCCOLI, IT WILL BE WATERY.
NO NEED TO PRE-COOK THE FRESH BROCCOLI - YAY!
My broccoli casserole uses fresh broccoli and using fresh is so much better. It takes a few minutes to cut up the broccoli. I mean if you’re going to eat this super delicious, cheesy, calorie filled broccoli casserole, then it should be worth it.
Cut the broccoli into bite-sized pieces - about 2-inches (it will shrink and soften when cooked - but you knew that). Use the stems and leaves. They have so much flavor and they’re good for you.
We won’t have to steam the broccoli first because before we bake this, we're going to cover it with foil. That will allow the broccoli to steam while it cooks. Smart, huh?
After 30 minutes, just remove the foil and continue to bake it uncovered for about 10 minutes.
OPTIONAL STEP: DO IT NOW OR BROIL LATER
You can melt the butter for the topping in a skillet, add the panko, and stir until the panko is golden brown. Mix it with the romano cheese and sprinkle over the casserole and continue with the recipe. Or, you can just combine the topping, sprinkle over the top, and broil after baking.
I literally cried after developing this recipe. Yes, it took many failures. I just had to let go of that awful recipe that was stuck in my head for so many years. Let it go - let it ALL GO.
THIS BROCCOLI CASSEROLE CAN BE ASSEMBLED AHEAD
You can assemble this ahead and bake it when you’re ready. Just refrigerate it. Remove it from the fridge at least 30 minutes before you bake to bring it to room temperature. You may have to add an additional 10 minutes to the baking time.
YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE THIS GROWN UP VERSION OF BROCCOLI CASSEROLE. YES, I’M YELLING.
MORE DELICIOUS SIDES
Thanks to my son, Ethan, for being brutally honest with me. He was the one who told me to let go of everything about that old recipe and everything related to it and start fresh.
Life is too short for mediocre food.
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THE BEST FROM SCRATCH BROCCOLI CASSEROLEPRINT PIN SAVE
- 1 ½ pounds fresh broccoli See NOTE 1
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 large shallot diced about ½ cup
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup whole milk
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup white wine
- ¼ cup Romano cheese
- 1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese See NOTE 2
- 2 tablespoons grated Romano
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter melted
- Preheat oven 350℉.
- Cut the broccoli into florets (bite-sized). Cut the stems and any leaves too. They offer good flavor and texture. Transfer into a large bowl.
- In a skillet add butter and saute shallot until softened - about 3 minutes. Add the garlic cloves and stir until fragrant.
- Add flour, salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg and cook roux for about a minute.
- Stir in the wine, then add the milk and cream. Stir until thickened.
- Take the skillet off heat and add the cheddar and the Romano. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- Add the sauce to the broccoli and mix until all the broccoli is coated with the sauce. Make sure you scrape off every bit of sauce from the bowl.
- Pour the mixture into a deep casserole dish at least 3 inches high.
- Combine the melted butter and panko, and Romano.
- Sprinkle evenly over the top.
- Cover with foil. Optional: I cover the top with a piece of wax paper before wrapping in foil. It’s an Italian thing.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove foil and continue to bake for another 10 minutes. Broil the top for a minute or two until it’s golden brown. See NOTE 3.
I don't post the nutritional value because I don't trust the accuracy of the nutritional apps. I’m not a nutritionist and don't want to post misinformation.