1. Remove extra moisture from wet vegetables before cooking.
If you don’t want to end up with a swimming pool at the bottom of your casserole, give vegetables some TLC before baking. Frozen vegetables can be particularly problematic. Thaw them in a strainer so they lose their extra liquid. You can squeeze moisture out of frozen greens like spinach to dry them out.
2. You might have to “par-cook” vegetables that take longer to finish.
“Par-cook” is chef speak for partially cooking something. If you want to mix and match ingredients, you need to ensure that everything finishes at the same time. Give ingredients that are slower to cook a head start and then add them to a casserole.
3. Don’t cook pasta all the way through before using in a casserole.
Regular pasta doesn’t really have the chance to cook properly if you add it in its dry state to your casserole. If you cook it all the way, it turns to mush. Cook your pasta 2-4 minutes shy of the suggested time on the package. It should be “al dente” before you add it to the casserole.
4. Make sure your casserole is the right temperature before you bake it.
The beauty of casseroles is that you can freeze them. Unfortunately this can wreak havoc if you don’t do it properly. Defrost your casserole completely in the refrigerator before you bake it. This can take up to 2 days. Also, let it come up to room temperature as your oven preheats.
Click through for our best casserole recipes!
Mini Chile Relleno Casseroles
Everyone gets an individual portion with this vegetarian, Tex-Mex mini casserole. A normal-size casserole like this would take close to an hour to bake--these are ready in half the time.
Here's a fabulous side dish that pairs well with almost any entrée. Broccoli is mixed with a flavorful cheese sauce, topped with buttered bread crumbs and baked to perfection - all in less than 45 minutes!
Here, Prego® Italian Sausage Hearty Meat Sauce is mixed with bow-tie pasta, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses and baked until hot, then topped with fresh mozzarella cheese balls that have been decorated with an olive slice to look like an eyeball.
I'm a huge casserole fan. Beef, Broccoli & Potato Hotdish is my favorite. (Hotdish is the Minnesotan name for casserole.) In my early "casseroling" days, I would just toss together ingredients that I thought would taste good together in a 9-by-13 inch pan and bake them. It was easy and the results usually tasted good, but there were always some minor imperfections. Depending on the ingredients, sometimes the casseroles came out watery. Other times, some ingredients were overcooked and mushy while some had a little too much bite.
Since I test recipes for a living as an associate food editor at EatingWell Magazine, ending up with something less than perfect became rather irritating, so I had to change my method. Now I've perfected my favorite casserole and can use what I've learned to make others flawlessly too.
Check out the slideshow above for the secrets I've discovered to making perfect casseroles.