Rice and Spinach Casserole with Basil
In this neo-casserole, a crisp crust of Parmesan and rice stands in for pastry, and luscious ricotta -- rather than cream -- cushions sauteed basil, spinach and zucchini.
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2/3 cup long-grain brown rice
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for dish
- 2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil
- 1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese (about 9 ounces), drained for 30 minutes
- 5 large eggs
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (from a 1-ounce piece)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add rice, stir once, and cook until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, garlic, and scallions, and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, until tender, 3 minutes more. Season with salt, and transfer to a bowl.
Return pan to medium heat, and add remaining tablespoon oil. Add spinach, and cook for 2 minutes. Add basil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until bright green and wilted, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Drain.
Whisk ricotta and eggs in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups cooked rice to mixture. Stir in cooked zucchini and spinach-basil mixtures. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt, and season with pepper.
Combine Parmesan and remaining cooked rice in a small bowl. Lightly coat a 9-inch round baking dish, 2 inches deep, with oil, and spoon ricotta mixture into dish. Top with Parmesan-rice mixture. Bake until filling is set and top is golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.