Cheesy butternut squash and wild rice bake.

This is one of those recipes that seems healthy, what with all the brown and wild rice and butternut squash and so on. But oh, the cheese! Given the cheesiness of this delicious vegetable bake, I cannot vouch for its good-for-your-waistline-ness.

But lordy, did this Cheesy Butternut Squash and Brown Rice Bake hit the spot when I was craving something carb-y and comforting on a recent cold night. The recipe is simple, based on one of my most popular recipes for Broccoli-Brown Rice Bake (which is, itself, hacked from a mushroom casserole recipe on 101cookbooks.com). I used full-fat dairy when I made it the other night because I was cold and cranky (though you could certainly swap in part-skim ricotta and nonfat yogurt and not at all be sad about it). It cured both the coldness and the crankiness, letmetellya.

The base of this recipe is pretty adaptable; starting with the rice blend and egg/yogurt/ricotta mixture, I could see swapping in pretty much any steamed vegetable in place of the butternut squash: peas, red peppers, carrots or any root vegetable, zucchini, whatever’s in the rot drawer of the fridge. Use any good shredded cheese on top (and please, shred your own from a block or wedge instead of buying the packaged shredded stuff). Start with the recipe here, then experiment and expand.

Butternut and Brown Rice Bake recipe

serves 6

3 cups cooked brown-wild rice blend
3 cups steamed diced butternut squash
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried herb blend (I like Colonel De's 'Simon & Garfunkel')
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
3 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 large eggs
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Fontina
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375°; spray a medium-sized baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine cooked rice, squash, parsley and herbs; season well with salt and pepper. In a small saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers; reduce heat to medium, add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add onion and garlic to rice mixture; stir and let cool slightly. In a bowl, whisk together ricotta, Greek yogurt, eggs and nutmeg; whisk in a pinch of salt and pepper. Add ricotta mixture to rice mixture and fold to combine thoroughly. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Scatter grated Fontina and Parmesan evenly over the top. Bake 40 minutes, until casserole is bubbly; run it under the broiler to brown the cheese for the last 2 minutes or so if desired.

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