Italian Rice Casserole Recipe with Chicken Sausage
This rice casserole recipe is a asy way to get your fix of the comforting flavors of the popular Sicilian rice balls (aracini). And it's the perfect casserole to make ahead and refrigerate or freeze for later if you need to.
chopped fresh parsley or basil for garnish, (optional)
Cook the rice with the salt according to the package directions. Set aside to cool.
Heat a larger nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes (I found adding a little extra virgin olive oil to the pan helped). Stir in the onions and cook until browned, 4 to 5 minutes more. Add the peas and 1 cup marinara sauce. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook until the flavors meld, about 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice, Pecorino, eggs, and ½ cup marinara sauce and mix well. (The mixture should be a bit sticky).
Brush or spray the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with extra virgin olive oil. Add 2 tablespoons bread crumbs to the dish and roll around to coat the bottom and sides.
Take half the rice mixture (or a little more if needed) and cover the bottom and sides of the dish, pressing the rice down to form an even bottom layer. Add the sausage-pea mixture and spread in one layer. Top with ¾ cup mozzarella. Cover with the remaining rice mixture, press until even. Top with the remaining ½ cup marinara, 2 tablespoons read crumbs, and ½ cup mozzarella.
Cover with foil and bake until hot, about 30 minutes. Garnish with parsley or basil. Cut into 8 pieces and serve with more marinara, if you like.
To freeze and serve later: Before baking, cover the uncooked dish tightly with plastic wrap, then foil, and freeze. Let completely thaw in the fridge 24 hours before baking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap and cover tightly with foil. Bake until heated through in the center, 40 to 50 minutes.
Leftovers: Cooked rice ball casserole can be stored in the fridge, covered, for up to 4 days.