When we began to brainstorm an original recipe to create for our No-Stress Neighborly Nosh Gathering, we knew we wanted a vegetable side dish that even a picky kid would love. A single link of Italian sausage (leftover from a previous pizza night) actually inspired the dish. It wasn't enough to create a main dish around, but it was just enough to add a little something extra when tossed in with a head of broccoli and a handful of pantry ingredients. A stretch of the imagination later, a flavorful veggie bake was born.
This dish is way more than a simple vegetable side. The sausage adds a savory, spicy note, while canned tomatoes brighten up both the color and the taste. But the best part? Our dinner party muse and sponsor, KRAFT FRESH TAKE. We used the Classic Four Cheese flavor, a crispy breaded topping that brings the requisite cheesy crunch, making it wholesome enough to please the parents yet delicious enough to satisfy the kids. It's a weeknight (or any night) win-win!
I only wish there had been leftovers – it would be absolutely divine on a baked potato or in a frittata. But when my daughter held out her plate for a third helping (Let me repeat that: A third helping! Of broccoli!) I knew I'd have to double the recipe next time, if I want enough for the next day.
Broccoli, Tomato, & Italian Sausage Bake
Serves 6; Prep Time: 20 min.; Total Time: 45 min.
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into small florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces regular or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
3 to 4 large cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped (juices discarded)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Red pepper flakes, optional
1 (6 ounce) package KRAFT FRESH TAKE cheese and breadcrumb mix in Classic Four Cheese Flavor, mixed together
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9x13-inch baking dish by greasing lightly with olive oil or baking spray.
Place broccoli in a steamer basket set inside a pot of boiling water (approximately two cups). Cover and steam until very tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well and set aside. [Alternately, place the broccoli and 2 to 3 tablespoons water in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with a dinner plate and cook on high for 4 minutes. Carefully remove the lid to check if the broccoli is tender; microwave in additional 1-minute bursts as needed.]
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until just starting to brown. Add the onions to the skillet and continue cooking until the sausage is cooked through and the onions are tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove the skillet from heat.
In a large bowl, mix the cooked onions and sausage with the drained broccoli along with the tomatoes. Season vegetables with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste; toss to combine. Spread in the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the bread crumb and cheese mixture over the vegetables.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden and vegetables are warmed through. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Steam the broccoli to your preferred tenderness; it will not soften more once in the oven.
Leftovers would be delicious repurposed in a frittata or on top of a baked potato.
Substitute: Prepare using turkey sausage.
Stay tuned for Friday, when we'll show you how our weeknight dinner party went!