What Is a Casserole?
We’ve all heard the term tossed around, and odds are you even grew up eating them, but what is a casserole? And what qualities characterize a dish that falls under the casserole category? If these questions keep you up at night, this article is for you.
Here, we’ll provide a definitive casserole definition, then discuss the many different casseroles and the main components of a casserole. We’ll also give you a few casserole recipes to try that are sure to impress anyone who tastes them. If you’ve ever wondered about the secret to making the perfect casserole, read on.
What Is a Casserole Dish?
Strictly by definition, the term “casserole” traces back to the Greek word kyathos, which essentially translates to “ladle.” Over the years, this word came to mean a cooking vessel used to combine ingredients before baking the dish slowly over a fire — or in an oven, nowadays. The finished product then gets served directly from the baking dish.
In this way, a casserole is an oven-baked meal that depends on the oven’s unique cooking process to transform essential ingredients into one unified, delicious dish that equals more than the sum of its parts. Whether through melding, melting or roasting, the oven turns the simplicity of a casserole’s components into something magnificent. As a result, the dish becomes tastier than it would have been without taking time in the oven.
In modern America, the casserole has come to epitomize efficiency by being a time- and cost-effective one-dish meal that stretches ingredients to feed a crowd. Typically, a casserole is a hearty one-dish meal and does not need many side dishes, if any, to round it out. However, some casserole recipes can act as an appetizer or side dish.
Types of Casseroles
As you can imagine, it’s possible to bake numerous ingredient combinations into something delicious. To help you narrow down your casserole choices, here are the main categories.
- Breakfast: Whether you choose to make a savory casserole out of cheese and sausage links or a sweeter variation, such as a French toast casserole, you can’t go wrong with a breakfast casserole. Baking a breakfast casserole at the beginning of the week also gives you and your family a quick, easy and filling meal to grab on rushed weekday mornings.
- Dinner: Keeping families well-fed on a busy weeknight is a dinner casserole’s specialty. By tossing ingredients together in a casserole dish and popping it in the oven, you can have a delicious and satisfying dinner ready with minimal stress.
- Side dish: While casseroles tend to be on the more filling side, you can make lighter casseroles that serve as excellent side dishes. For example, the classic green bean casserole side dish is a fixture at many Thanksgiving dinner tables.
- Chicken: Many casseroles feature chicken as the primary protein source. With choices like chicken tetrazzini, broccoli chicken casserole and chicken-rice casseroles, you’re bound to find a chicken casserole your family will love.
- Beef: For red meat fans, a beef casserole is the perfect dinner option. From baked spaghetti or cabbage roll casserole to cheeseburger casserole or unstuffed peppers, your beef casserole opportunities are endless.
- Seafood: Though tuna casserole is the typical seafood casserole, seafood casseroles are far more versatile than most people realize. A seafood lover can quickly whip up a tasty clam chowder casserole or a shrimp-and-crab casserole.
- Vegetable: Casseroles can fit seamlessly into a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Vegetable casseroles that are suitable as a main dish include eggplant parmesan casserole or a lentil-and-veggies bake.
- Mexican: Tex-Mex casseroles are a family favorite because it is easy to make many Mexican staples one-dish meals filled with bold flavors, such as enchiladas, taco bake, burrito pie and Mexican lasagna.
Main Components of a Casserole
Regardless of which type of casserole you choose, every casserole dish has a few common components. You can even invent an original casserole recipe by experimenting with different ingredients as long as you incorporate each essential element.
A good casserole includes these five primary components.
- Protein: A rich source of protein makes a casserole filling and tasty. Your protein can be any meat, including ground beef, pork, chicken, turkey, seafood and even venison. If you’re making a vegetarian casserole dish, you can use beans or eggs as your source of protein.
- Starch: Starch usually gives a casserole its body and volume while adding texture to the dish. While potatoes like hash browns are a tried-and-true casserole starch, other starches — such as rice, noodles, quinoa and barley — make hearty casserole starches, too.
- Veggies: Adding vegetables is an easy way to give your casserole a nutrition boost. You can often sneak extra veggies into a casserole because the combined ingredients’ overall flavor disguises a vegetable’s individual taste. You can incorporate any vegetable you like, but be sure to soften hard vegetables before baking them in with the rest of the ingredients.
- Sauce: Sauce is the central casserole ingredient because it brings all the other ingredients together, creating harmonious flavors. While many traditional casserole recipes call for “cream of” soups, you can also use pizza sauce, pesto, alfredo sauce, chicken or vegetable stock, enchilada sauce, salsa, marinara sauce or gravy as your casserole sauce.
- Cheese: Cheese is the final defining attribute of most casseroles. As the cheese melts in the oven, it serves as an additional binding agent, uniting the other ingredients in perfect harmony. Besides, everything tastes better when covered in cheese! If your family doesn’t eat cheese, you can either skip this ingredient or swap it for a cheese alternative, such as a plant-based cheese or a spread like tahini.
Casserole Recipes to Try
Now you know about the nearly endless casserole options, you’re ready to create your masterpiece. Here are a few simple and delicious casserole recipes to get you started.
- Breakfast sausage casserole: Even if it’s not the holidays, this Christmas breakfast sausage casserole is the perfect way to start the morning. Featuring melty cheddar cheese, tasty Premio Sweet Italian Sausage and toasted bread, this casserole is worth rolling out of bed for.
- Veggie tots casserole: Trying to get some more veggies in your family’s diet? This cheesy broccoli veggie tots casserole with sausage is the ideal blend of nutritious and delicious. The delightful flavors of Premio Sweet Italian Sausage and cheese are sure to successfully cover up any hint of veggie taste.
- Green bean casserole: Elevate your holiday dinner with this traditional green bean casserole recipe that incorporates the salty and savory flavors of Premio Italian Sausage and bacon to balance out the subtler flavors of potatoes and green beans.
- Sausage-and-peppers casserole: If you’re looking for the perfect combination of sweet and spicy, this Premio sausage-pepper casserole is the recipe for you. Starring Premio Sweet and Hot Italian Sausage, penne pasta, bell peppers, tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese, this recipe has all the elements of the perfect casserole dish.
- Rice-and-sausage casserole: Looking for a timeless recipe? This simple sausage-rice casserole will never go out of style. With classic savory flavors from onion soup mix and bratwurst, this casserole dish is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, no matter who you’re cooking for.
Purchase Premio for Your Perfect Casserole
To make a delicious casserole, you have to start with the best ingredients. Premio offers a wide range of fresh and tasty products to give your casserole the flavor boost it needs. At Premio, we always make our sausage with high-quality ingredients and no fillers — the way sausage should be!
Find Premio in the store nearest you to start perfecting your casserole-making skills today.