Cheesy Sausage and Rice Casserole with comforting smoked sausage, tender white rice, and creamy Cheddar cheese is a decadent ONE POT meal!
When comfort food is in order, sausage is kind of a must! Go hot or sweet Italian pork sausage, Andouille, or mild country turkey or chicken sausage to add a smoky flavor to everyday recipes. This decadent and oh-so-filling ONE POT casserole recipe will be a hit with the entire family!
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
After several warm (as in 80°F!) days and nights here in Charleston, it is finally feeling like January temperatures again. For those nights I know I will have to toss a second quilt on the bed, I always want something warm and comforting for supper. It’s a ‘nesting’ thing.
Unfortunately, here in the South, we don’t get sweater weather for very long before it begins to warm up again. I have to get my pasta recipes and rice recipes in before Charleston turns a chilly cheek! Enter Cheesy Sausage and Rice Casserole.
Today’s share is for a VERY COMFORTING, cheesy, smoky and downright good casserole. If you need an easy dinner idea or would rather cook from your pantry versus run to the grocery store, this recipe just may be your answer.
So, grab your biggest frying pan and a wooden spoon and follow along with me to make this fabulous rice dish!
How This Recipe Came About…
Last night, I was craving a starchy and risotto-ish cooked rice dish. I wanted it to somehow be creamy and cheesy and among those easy meals that are home runs with my eaters.
Cheesy Sausage and Rice Casserole is packed with comforting smoked sausage, tender white rice, and creamy Cheddar cheese making for a decadent and filling complete meal in one pot! This was it!
My already droolworthy comfort food took a delicious twist when I added crumbled hot Italian sausage and sliced smoked sausage pieces to the list of ingredients. I cooked these two great options in a large skillet and drained of fat before sautéing my aromatics.
I was aiming for that smokey nuance I remember as a kid. My grandma’s Polish sausage recipes permeated the air as she cooked sausage with cabbage and noodles and whatever else she had on hand.
This rice casserole recipe would be similar, but omitting cabbage, I’d add chopped red bell peppers, chopped green bell peppers, fresh garlic, and plenty of onion.
I would combine sausage with these garden aromatics, combine rice, and incorporate a cheese sauce for creamy, melty goodness. Yeah, my guys will eat this for certain!
Cheesy Sausage and Rice Casserole
Do You Have What’s Needed For This Cheesy Sausage and Rice Casserole? Check The List!
- olive oil
- smoked link sausage, turkey or chicken sausage link, or Polish kielbasa link
- spicy Italian sausage or mild sweet Italian sausage
- unsalted butter
- mild white onion or sweet yellow onion
- fresh garlic cloves
- low sodium chicken broth
- any long grain white rice such as jasmine rice or basmati
- red bell pepper
- yellow bell pepper
- cream of onion soup
- sour cream
- 2% milk
- sharp Cheddar shredded cheese
- red pepper flakes
Notice I Do Not Specify Salt In This Recipe?
And in fact, I do specify lower sodium chicken broth and unsalted butter for a reason. The sausage you purchase, especially if it’s a kielbasa, bologna, or smoked beef sausage will have PLENTY ENOUGH salt to season this dish beautifully.
To my knowledge, I’m thinking nobody yet produces a lower sodium cream of onion condensed soup. Will a reader please comment below if such a condensed soup exists?
For this reason, feel like you may substitute any condensed cream soup with lower sodium if you are inclined.
For me and mine, I have made this many times now since deciding to post it here for you. Each time I used the regular condensed cream of onion with some sort or another of smoked sausage and it’s NEVER been too salty as long as I use low sodium stock and unsalted butter.
What Are Some Great Types Of Sausage To Use In A Rice Recipe?
So, there is raw sausage and cured or smoked sausage. I use both in this dish because I LOVE the flavor combination! I’m sure to brown them separately, the raw sausage (casings removed) first.
In these photos, I used a combination of smoked beef link sausage and a lesser amount of hot Italian pork sausage to altogether equal 12 ounces. Lately though, I have been eager to try as many of the new chicken sausages on the market as possible.
So be creative. Do not feel like you must go beef or pork sausage with this dish. Since the leftovers for this are even better the next day, make the best part of the recipe about the sausage!
Chicken and apple sausage, cured lamb sausage, or say an Amish smoked sweet ring bologna all work. They are fully cooked, so you are really only needing to get a good caramelization as you sauté it. Any flavor of turkey sausage also works here.
Since I’ve been on an Italian sausage recipe kick for the last month-ish, I had lots to use so I combined it with the smoked beef sausage.
How To Make Cheesy Sausage and Rice Casserole?
I’m calling this a casserole. It eats like a casserole. I do recommend making it in a pretty skillet or Dutch oven though so you can serve it like a casserole. Well, except for the fact that it may be served from the same pot you cook it in or a pretty casserole dish, it’s entirely up to you.
The prep time for this couldn’t be better – 10 minutes! I cut the smoked sausage link into about 2-inch slices or rounds, while removing the casings from the Italian sausage so it crumbles easily as it cooks.
You’ll want to get milage from the flavor in the sausages. What I mean to say is that the sausage will impart SERIOUS FLAVOR into this cheesy rice masterpiece via the residual browned bits in the pan. So absolutely go for really brown sausage, then drain.
Don’t Wipe The Skillet! Flavor Resides In Those Browned Bits
Whatever browned bits are left in the bottom of the skillet is where all the flavor lives! DO NOT WIPE THE SKILLET!
Refer to the rice packaging to know how much liquid is required to cook the grains. In lieu of water, I’m specifying chicken stock or broth for a seriously rich final product.
Once the sausage is done browning, add the onions to the pan and cook over medium heat until they are soft. To this I toss in some garlic and cook just another minute. I just want the garlic fragrant, not sauteed fully.
One Pot Cheesy Sausage and Rice Casserole
- large, deep heavy-bottomed skillet
- wooden spoon
- slotted spoon
Ingredients For One Pot Cheesy Sausage and Rice Casserole
- 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 8 ounces smoked beef sausage cut into 2-inch lengths on the diagonal
- 4 ounces hot Italian pork or chicken sausage casings removed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup yellow onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 1/2 cups lower sodium chicken stock *Refer to directions on the package of rice for correct measure of liquid and add or subtract accordingly
- 1 1/4 cups jasmine rice or other long grain rice
- 3 tablespoons red bell pepper finely diced
- 3 tablespoons yellow bell pepper finely diced
- 1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of onion soup or other condensed creamy soup
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 3/4 cup 2% milk
- 1 1/4 cups Cheddar cheese shredded
- pinch red pepper flakes or more to taste
optional for serving
- optional freshly grated Parmesan or Beemster cheese
Note that this recipe is designed for all of the casserole ingredients to be prepared and cooked in one pot. Before you begin, refer to your rice package for the amount of cooking liquid and cooking time. I am specifying lower sodium chicken broth in place of water for the rice.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a Dutch oven or very large deep-sided skillet over medium heat. Begin browning the Italian sausage, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon as it cooks. Remove the cooked browned sausage to paper toweling to drain using a slotted spoon.
- Add the sliced smoked sausage to the Dutch oven or skillet in a single layer and caramelize on both sides over medium heat. Again, use the slotted spoon to remove to paper toweling to drain, but DO NOT WIPE POT CLEAN.
- Melt the unsalted butter in the Dutch oven or skillet over medium heat using the back of the wooden spoon to scrape up some of the browned bits from the sausage. Add the diced onions. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Onions should be translucent, but not fried. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.
- Add the remaining olive oil to the pan along with the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Again, use the back of the wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the sausage. It is this rendered fond that will give this dish its flavor. Once the liquid is boiling, add the rice. Bring back to a boil and cover tightly.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Resist the urge to remove the lid and do not stir.
- After the 10 minutes is up, add the finely diced bell peppers by sprinkling over the rice. Replace the lid without stirring. Cook 10 minutes more.
- Turn off the heat and leave the pot covered. Allow the rice mixture to sit for yet another 10 minutes undisturbed. These last 10 minutes of resting time are crucial as the rice is still technically cooking. The remaining moisture is permeating the grain and any rice which may have previously stuck or burned on the bottom of the pan will release on its own. DON'T STIR!
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cream of onion soup, sour cream, milk, and shredded Cheddar cheese. Return the pot to low heat. Lift the lid on the pot and spoon all of the creamed mixture into the pot. At this juncture you may stir to combine well.
- Add all of the crumbled Italian sausage, half the smoked sausage, and the red pepper flakes. Stir and cook very gently until heated through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the remaining smoked sausage slices to the top of the rice to garnish. Serve piping hot in shallow bowls with optional freshly grated Parmesan or Beemster cheese!
In goes the stock or broth and that handy wooden spoon gets some exercise by scraping up all of those browned bits in the bottom of the pan. And as that stock begins to boil, and all of that flavor from the sausage and the onions and garlic becomes harmonious, in goes the rice.
The pan is covered tightly and allowed to simmer for 10 minutes undisturbed. The lid is lifted after the 10 minutes ONLY to add some very finely chopped red and yellow bell pepper to the surface of the still cooking rice. No stirring, just tossing it in.
Long Grain Rice Is Persnickety So Allow It The Time It Needs To Cook The Grains All The Way Through
Again, cook another 10 minutes, this time over very low heat, then cut the heat altogether and let stand yet another 10 minutes. This 30 minutes of absorption is crucial to the rice grains cooking through. And remember, you haven’t stirred anything yet!
In a large bowl, I whisk a can of cream of onion soup (you can also use cream of chicken soup or other creamy condensed soup if it’s on hand) with some sour cream, milk, and a mess of shredded cheese. Spoon mixture into the now fully steam-cooked rice and (FINALLY!) stir to combine.
At this juncture, I add the previously browned and crumbled hot Italian sausage and half of the browned sliced smoked sausage and combine it all. A pinch of red pepper flakes is the last step. I top the finished dish with the remaining smoked sausage and some chopped parsley if I’m in the mood to chop…
Modifying The Norm To Make It Not Entirely Average…
I see soooo many possibilities here by way of stoking vegetables! Think corn and chopped zucchini, diced tomatoes and baby broccoli florets. This dish is so cheesy, kids won’t push their plates away, vegetables or not!
Ground beef browned with a pinch of garlic powder over medium-high heat takes the place of sausage if you prefer it. Leftover rotisserie chicken also makes a healthier stand-in for sausage if you’re needing to lighten things up. Just add a pinch of smoked paprika.
Also, adding an additional cup of cheese to the top of the dish and broiling it for 2 to 3 minutes until melty really kicks up the comfort to another level.
Can Cheesy Sausage and Rice Casserole Be Made Ahead?
YES, and while it remains fabulously delish, it does loose a degree of creaminess. But this dish can nonetheless be made ahead to accommodate packing easy lunches for the office or for dinner later in the day. Make ahead by up to 1 day and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Reheat by drizzling 1/4 cup of water over the rice and covering tightly with heavy gauge aluminum foil. Place into a 350°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until rice is hot and steamy. Fluff with a fork before serving.
You may also heat individual portions in the microwave, covered, for 1 to 3 minutes. Cooking times will vary depending on your microwave.
Reheating in a microwave generally requires less time than you might think, so I recommend trying it at just 1 minute the first time and adjust after that.
Can Cheesy Sausage and Rice Casserole Be Frozen?
I will be honest in that just like making Cheesy Sausage and Rice Casserole ahead, freezing causes this dish to lose not only creaminess, but also its umph.
If you do wish to freeze, prepare the casserole in full according to the specifications in the recipe card. Add to a large freezer-safe container with a tight-fitting lid. Freeze for up to 3 months.
To thaw, place in refrigerator overnight. To reheat, remove rice to a baking dish and sprinkle with 1/4 cup water. Cover tightly with heavy gauge aluminum foil and place into a 350°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until rice is hot and steamy. Fluff with a fork before serving.
How To Serve Cheesy Sausage Rice Casserole?
Piping hot in shallow bowls with just a pinch of sweet paprika sprinkled atop or a shaving of a good hard cheese such as Parmesan or Beemster.
Don’t forget the wine! Metal-casked Chenin Blancs tend to compliment here, otherwise whatever suits!
If You Like This Recipe…
…you might also like:
- Wild Rice & Butternut Casserole with Cranberries and Pecans
- Chicken Plov Recipe – A Comforting One-Pot Chicken and Rice Pilaf
- One Pot Creamy Chicken & Rice Soup
- Crispy Chicken with Herbed Carolina Gold Rice & Scratch Pan Gravy
- Shrimp In Creamy Creole Sauce
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