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Italian Bake

 Italian Bake
For years, this bake has been a hit in our house. I created it one day, craving something warm and Italian, but wanted to leave the table without feeling like I needed a pasta-induced nap. I substituted the pasta for brown rice with great results. Bonus: Without the pasta, I can enjoy a healthy sized portion, and not gain any weight the next day (providing you don’t eat the whole tray Ladies and Gents).  It’s great as a side, but we enjoy it as a main, paired with a leafy salad. 

Please don’t be scared off by short grain brown rice. A friend turned me on to it about 25 years ago, and I cannot live without it. The subtle sweetness, and moist chewiness of the grain takes flavor so well. It is also delicious on it’s own, or paired with just about anything: soups, sushi, croquettes, and stir frys. Ah, to bounce back and forth between a bite of stir fry, then a bite of plain brown rice. Ooooooh, but that’s another recipe, for another day icon smile Italian Bake

Italian Bake

3 cups cooked short grain brown rice (I buy Lundberg brand) 
10 ounces crushed tomatoes
3 medium zucchini, cubed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup pitted black olives, sliced
himalayan sea salt and freshly grated black pepper to season
freshly grated parmesan for topping (optional)

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil, then saute the onions, garlic, and zucchini until soft, about 5 minutes. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, olives, basil. oregano, bay leaf, and red wine. Bring to a gentle boil, then lower the heat, simmering for 30 minutes. 
2. Put the brown rice into a large bowl. Using a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables from the sauce, and lay on top the rice. Using a ladle, spoon out half the sauce onto the rice and vegetables. The idea is for the sauce and vegetables to coat the rice without it becoming a soggy mixture.  
3. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Gently fold the vegetables and sauce into the rice, taking care to coat (but not soak) all of the grains. Turn into a baking dish, and bake for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve with freshly grated parmesan.

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3 Responses to “Italian Bake”
  1. Bethany says:

    Mmmm – I do love a hearty Italian meal. I've never tried the short grain brown rice – will try asap.

  2. Susan Derby says:

    Another winner, Nicole — I made it last night, and the people (even the little one) loved it! Will you be my personal chef, please? Better yet, will you marry me? ;)

  3. Nicole says:

    So glad you guys enjoyed it Susan! Who ever thought brown rice could taste so good… and so Italian? Nothin' like a proposal from a cool chick to make my day!

    Cheers M'dears :)

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