Greek Brown Rice and Vegetable Casserole is vegetarian comfort food that’s hearty enough to satisfy a carnivore. Zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, herbs and brown rice in a creamy ricotta and feta cheese blend is then topped with fresh tomatoes and baked for a delicious late summer make-ahead meal!
Serve the vegetarian casserole with soup, salad or Mediterranean Braised Green Beans with Tomatoes for a meatless meal everyone will rave about!
Why This Recipe Is a Keeper:
I have made and loved this vegetarian casserole recipe for many years. It’s inspired by one that first appeared in the classic Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen published in 1977 and reissued in 1992 with lighter versions of all the dishes from the original.
Her version was called “Bulgarian Pepper Casserole” and because of the name, it wasn’t a big seller with my personal chef clients. Bell peppers, especially green bell peppers, can be difficult for some people to handle. Once I changed the name to be more descriptive and swapped out the green bell pepper for zucchini, yellow squash and sweet peppers it became a hit!
Greek Brown Rice and Vegetable Casserole can be made ahead, freezes great and meat-eaters won’t miss the meat!
- Onions: Use purchased frozen chopped onions to save time. Whenever I chop too many onions, I save and place in a quart-size zipper-top bag and place in the freezer for my own frozen ready-to-use chopped onions anytime.
- Bell Peppers: You can use any color or combination of peppers including green if you like.
- Zucchini and Yellow Squash: I used a combination but you can use all zucchini or all yellow squash if that’s what you have.
- Dill: If you can find a sufficient amount of fresh dill, by all means use it. Fresh dill in quantity is hard to find in my area so I often have to use dried dill.
- Oregano: I prefer fresh because we have oregano year-round in the South but dried is just fine.
- Lemon Juice: Fresh is always best!
- Cooked Brown Rice: This recipe is a great way to use leftover brown rice. You’ll need four cups. If you need to cook brown rice, add at least 30 minutes to the cook/prep time. You can often find cooked brown rice in the freezer section of your grocery store near the vegetables. Quinoa can be substituted for the brown rice.
- Kalamata Olives: Pitting Kalamata olives can be labor-intensive, but they are available pitted. When purchasing “pitted” Kalamata olives, I treat them as though they still have the pit. I never take for granted that the mechanical pitting process got all the pits—I look each one over.
- Tomatoes: Use round or plum tomatoes.
- Gather and prep all the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly oil a baking dish.
- Heat the oil and add the onion. Cook until softened.
- Add the bell pepper and cook until that starts to soften up then add the zucchini and yellow squash and cook until softened.
- Stir in the garlic, herbs and crushed red pepper flakes.
- Combine the vegetables, brown rice, cheeses and egg in a bowl and stir to combine.
- Transfer to the prepared baking dish, smooth the top then add the tomatoes and black olives.
- Bake the vegetable casserole until heated through to 165 degrees in the center and the edges are lightly crispy.
- Garnish this lovely Greek Brown Rice and Vegetable Casserole with chopped fresh parsley if desired and serve!
Chef Tips and Tricks:
- Tip for cooking brown rice:
- My favorite way to cook brown rice is to cook it like pasta. Get a large saucepan of water boiling, add some salt then the rice and simply boil it until it’s tender—I don’t even measure.
- Drain thoroughly in a sieve and the result will be the most beautiful, fluffy brown rice!
- When I cook brown rice at home, I always cook extra so that I can freeze it and have it available when needed.
- You can also do it in an Instant Pot or other pressure cooker but it takes about the same time as simply boiling it. Here are instructions for the Instant Pot from Culinary Scientist Jessica Gavin.
- To refresh dried herbs, rub them between your index finger and thumb as you’re adding them to your dish.
- If you have to pit the Kalamata olives, place the olive on a flat surface such as a cutting board. Press down on the olive on the end closest to you with your thumb; the pit should pop right out.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Rinsing any grain to remove dust particles is always a good idea.
Absolutely! Use the same amount of cooked quinoa as rice–4 cups.
Although the casserole will not have the same Greek flair as with feta, you can use a mild cheese such as Mozzarella or Monterey jack.
Puree cottage cheese in a food processor or blender and use in place of the ricotta. For added protein, substitute silken tofu.
More vegetable/vegetarian casseroles you’re sure to love:
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Greek Brown Rice and Vegetable Casserole
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for oiling the baking dish
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 medium red bell peppers chopped
- 1 medium yellow bell pepper chopped
- 2 medium zucchini halved lengthwise and sliced into half-moons
- 1 medium yellow squash halved lengthwise and sliced into half-moons
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley divided
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 4 cups cooked brown rice
- 1 cup ricotta cheese light is fine
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese reduced fat or fat-free is fine
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 medium tomatoes or 1 large tomato, sliced
- ¼ cup pitted and halved Kalamata olives
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Set aside.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 4-5 minutes or until beginning to soften.
- Add the chopped bell pepper and continue cooking 5-6 minutes or until bell pepper begins to soften.
- Add the zucchini and yellow squash and cook 3-4 minutes more or until zucchini begins to soften.
- Stir in garlic, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, oregano, dill and crushed red pepper flakes if using. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, combine vegetables, brown rice, ricotta and feta cheeses, egg, lemon juice and salt and black pepper to taste. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and smooth the top.
- Place tomato slices over the top then sprinkle with halved Kalamata olives.
- Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until hot throughout.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining chopped parsley.
- Pureed cottage cheese or silken tofu can be substituted for the ricotta.
- Although the casserole won’t have the same Greek flair, a mild cheese such as Mozzarella or Monterey jack will work.
- Use quinoa in place of the brown rice.
These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.