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GardenSMART :: Company's Coming and You Need Big Dishes for Feasting

Company's Coming and You Need Big Dishes for Feasting

By Tommy C. Simmons, an enthusiastic cook
Photograph by Tommy C. Simmons

I'm a fan of casseroles – especially big pasta- or rice-enhanced casseroles that will serve a crowd and can be made ahead. As soon as I have a date when the kids plan to visit, I try to put aside time to prepare two or three big casseroles to put in the freezer. We don't usually eat all of them during a visit, but it's nice to know the supply is there if needed.

A new "big" casserole I cooked recently was for a chicken lasagna. It was a classic white sauce, chicken and spinach combination but in place of spinach I substituted broccoli. I raise fresh spinach in pots on my deck, but a fall dry spell with warmer temperatures didn't help my spinach plants. The spinach's flavor was bitter – tasted like tobacco, my husband said, so I used broccoli in the recipe instead.

We liked the casserole and tested how well it would reheat after freezing. Defrosted and reheated in a microwave, perfectly. I think this will be a hit with our grandchildren.

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Chicken and Broccoli Lasagna can be made ahead and frozen until ready for entertaining.

Home kitchen-tested recipe

Chicken and Broccoli Lasagna

Serves 8. Adapted recipe is by Tommy Simmons from a chicken lasagna recipe on

9 lasagna noodles
½ cup butter
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 cups chicken broth
1 ½ cups milk
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups cubed, cooked white meat chicken
2 (12.6-oz.) pkgs. Frozen Baby broccoli florets (or slightly less), thawed, cooked and drained (could use fresh broccoli, as well)
1 tbl. chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese for topping

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic in the butter until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the flour and salt, and simmer until bubbly. 
  3. Mix in the broth and milk, and boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Stir in 2 cups mozzarella cheese and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Season with basil, oregano, black and cayenne peppers. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Grease a large 9 x 13-inch Pyrex baking dish. Spread 1/3 of the sauce mixture in the bottom of the dish. Layer with 1/3 of the cooked lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the ricotta, broccoli florets and the chicken. Arrange 1/3 of the noodles over the chicken, and layer with 1/3 of the sauce mixture, ricotta, broccoli florets and the remaining 2 cups mozzarella cheese and ½ cup Parmesan cheese. Arrange remaining noodles over cheese and layer remaining chicken, ricotta, and broccoli finishing off with sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until bubbly.

Testing note: You may not use all the broccoli. Refrigerate leftovers. To freeze, cool the casserole, wrap in plastic wrap and then seal with foil. Will keep in the freezer for two months. Thaw in the refrigerator and reheat in a microwave.


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