Italian Chicken Rice Casserole

Italian Chicken Rice Casserole is a savory and comforting dish that brings together the rich flavors of Italian cuisine in a convenient casserole format. This hearty recipe typically starts with boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs seasoned with a blend of Italian herbs and spices. Common choices include oregano, basil, thyme, garlic powder, and onion powder, creating a robust and aromatic foundation for the dish.

The chicken is often seared or browned in a skillet to enhance its flavor and develop a golden crust. Meanwhile, rice, a staple ingredient in this casserole, is cooked separately until it reaches a fluffy and tender consistency.

To assemble the casserole, the cooked rice is layered at the bottom of a baking dish, providing a substantial base for the dish. The seasoned and cooked chicken is then arranged on top of the rice, creating a delicious protein layer. The dish is further enriched with other classic Italian ingredients such as tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and sometimes tomato paste, contributing a tangy and vibrant element to the overall flavor profile.

Cheese is a quintessential component of this casserole, with shredded mozzarella or Parmesan being popular choices. The cheese is generously sprinkled over the chicken and tomato layers, adding a gooey, melty texture and a savory depth to the dish.

Baking is the final step in bringing all the components together. The casserole is baked until the cheese is melted and bubbly, and the flavors meld into a cohesive and mouthwatering ensemble. The result is a comforting one-dish meal that combines the heartiness of chicken and rice with the savory allure of Italian seasonings and melted cheese.

Italian Chicken Rice Casserole is a versatile recipe that allows for variations based on personal preferences. Some may choose to add vegetables like bell peppers or spinach for added color and nutritional value. This casserole is perfect for family dinners, potlucks, or any occasion where a satisfying and flavorful dish is desired.

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 to 8 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs

1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Embrace the joy of cooking as you start this nourishing recipe.

In a skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Sauté onion, garlic, and bell pepper until tender and aromatic, around 5 minutes.

Mix in the rice, allowing it to toast for 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and simmer gently.

Season chicken thighs with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Place them in the skillet among the rice.

Top with undrained diced tomatoes, letting their juices add depth to the dish.

Cover and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender.

Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the casserole, then return to the oven uncovered for 5 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and golden.

Allow the dish to rest for 5 minutes before garnishing with parsley. This wait ties all the flavors together beautifully.

Variations & Tips:

Adapt the recipe for picky eaters by omitting tomatoes or peppers, focusing on the simple yet delicious combination of broth, rice, chicken, and cheese.

Experiment with cheese by blending mozzarella with parmesan or asiago for an extra Italian flavor.

Incorporate veggies like spinach or diced zucchini with the tomatoes to boost the dish’s nutritional value.

Embrace the gift of leftovers—this casserole reheats well, making it perfect for next-day lunches or stress-free dinners.

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