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What is a Casserole?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A casserole has two definitions. It is an ovenproof dish invented by the French in which an entree, often containing rice and meat was served. The name of the dish inspired the plethora of entrees with the same name that gained great popularity during the 1950s.

People may still use a casserole style dish to create a casserole meal. Alternately, many simply use a square or oblong glass oven safe dish to cook this dish. One of the most common is the very popular green bean casserole, a mix of green beans and cream of mushroom soup, topped with French fried onions. Another common offering is the tuna casserole, a combination of tuna, noodles, a sauce base like mushroom soup, and topped with breadcrumbs to provide extra crunch.

With the return to some homestyle cooking methods, some have gone back to older cookbooks to produce comfort foods like the tuna casserole. It can be safely said, however, that this type of dish has never been quite out of style. Mixing meat and a starch together and baking it has been a popular way of serving food that even predates the invention of the serving dish.

For example, Shepard’s pie is a combination of thin slices of beef, lamb or ground beef, covered in gravy and then topped with creamy mashed potatoes. The result is an impressive casserole that makes for an excellent entrée. The top of the potatoes are crisped to a golden brown. This dish has been served in England for hundreds of years.

Another quite popular variant on the casserole is the way in which many Hispanic families make enchiladas. The individual enchiladas are placed as closely together as possible in a dish and then topped with a spicy red sauce. Cheese and olives may cover the top and the dish is baked to perfection. Lasagna and Manicotti can both be served in a similar style.

Packaged products have helped many a housewife turn ground beef into a tasty casserole. Many actually prefer their own degree of flavoring, and it remains an easy dish to make when only a few ingredients are added. For example, tamale pie casserole is sautéed ground beef with a bit of tomato, onions and chili that is topped with a layer of polenta, cheddar cheese and olives.

In all, the casserole food entrée evokes the comfort foods of the 1940s and 1950s, but actually far predates this time. Various recipes exist in cookbooks and on the Internet that can help inspire one’s next cooking endeavor.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon4316 — On Oct 13, 2007

Shepherd’s pie is actually made with lamb (think of a Shepherd looking after his flock of sheep).

The similar version made with beef and carrots is called Cottage pie, here in England.

From Argyle cook.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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