Today’s recipe, Gluten-Free Italian Casserole, is my adaptation of a recipe from a decades-old cookbook from the church my husband grew up in. I’ve shared before that church and community cookbooks have always been my favorites and that didn’t stop when I went gluten free. Yes, if these kinds of cookbooks have always been your favorites, they still can be.
Quite a few recipes that are included in such cookbooks are naturally gluten free. Other recipes simply need a substitution of a gluten-free version of a key ingredient, as the Italian Casserole recipe that I’m sharing today did. I just flipped through this cookbook once again and re-confirmed that both statements are true. I also took note of how many recipes I’ve already made from this cookbook (my modifications are noted right on my copy) and how many of those adapted recipes that I still need to share with you all.
The original recipe for the Italian Casserole was “fine” before I went gluten free, but even then I wanted a simpler recipe with slightly fewer ingredients so I used spaghetti/pasta sauce instead of the combination of tomato sauce, tomato paste, onions, and spices. I also made some changes based on our personal preferences—such as using only a fourth of the pepperoni slices and usually opting for shredded mozzarella cheese instead of mozzarella slices. Too much pepperoni can lead to indigestion and shredded mozzarella does a better job of getting in the “nooks and crannies” of the pasta than sliced mozzarella does.
Years later when I went gluten free, all I had to do to make this recipe safe for Son and I was substitute gluten-free pasta and ensure that all the other ingredients in the recipe were gluten free. Of course, that was quite easy to do and the results were as delicious as always, so here’s the recipe as I make it today with notes on making slight variations.
I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe. It’s a great one for a large family to enjoy or to take to a potluck event. For the two of us, it can last quite a few days! Therefore, if you wish to make the recipe for two people, I recommend splitting it and freezing half of it versus eating it at every meal until it’s gone. After all, I want you to still love this recipe after you make it the first time!
Oh, before I forget, I’ll share a bit of a side story on this recipe. When I made this casserole a while back, I made it specifically so I could photograph it and share it with you all. I planned to have enough daylight left to snap a few quick photos before we ate our dinner. Alas, I couldn’t locate my camera. Daylight faded quickly and I was still looking. Frustrated I posted on Facebook:
“We won’t be having dinner until I find my camera. Guess this occurrence will force me to buy a bigger, more professional camera, which would be much harder to misplace! LOL and sigh. I’m hungry! #foodbloggerproblems”
Friends, including quite a few food bloggers, were quick to offer encouragement and commiseration as many had experience with misplaced cameras. A half hour later, I found my camera and posted an update:
“Found it!!! In the 5-gallon crock in the hall that holds scarves, etc. I had temporarily placed it there when trying to get good photos of Sonny in the snow last week. Didn’t really get a good one, but here it is. Btw, in the process of looking, I found a missing sock and missing sunglasses and fixed a drawer that was out of alignment! LOL Thanks, everyone!”
Because I hadn’t gotten a great photo of Sonny (perhaps I would have gotten a far better one if I’d been out in the snow with him and Mr. GFE earlier?), I’d stuck the camera back in the closest receptacle—the crock—hoping for another opportunity. Then I’d forgotten all about it.
By the time I found my camera the evening I made this casserole, dinner was very late and the only lighting for photos was, well, unnatural. Still … I promise this Italian Casserole makes for a beautiful presentation and is likely to become a favorite of family and friends who love all things saucy, cheesy, and Italian!
- 1 pound ground beef (I use ground venison)
- 12 ounces gluten-free pasta, cooked (I’ve used shells, spirals, penne, elbows; they all work well)
- About 4 cups pasta sauce (see notes for substitution information)
- 1 pound mozzarella cheese (sliced or shredded)
- Half of a package of pepperoni slices, about 3 ounces (or more or less as you prefer; see notes also)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 9 x 13 baking dish.
- Brown ground beef in a large, deep skillet. Drain.
- Wipe out skillet with a paper towel if needed (to remove grease) and add ground beef back to skillet.
- Add in pasta sauce and mix well. Stir in pasta until incorporated. (Gently mix if using gluten-free pasta that’s on the fragile side.)
- Over medium to medium-high heat, quickly bring the mixture to a boil. Stir, reduce heat to low and simmer for a few minutes, stirring as needed, until mixture is evenly heated.
- Spoon half of your mixture into the bottom of your baking dish.
- Add cheese, distributing evenly over---and completely covering---the meat layer.
- Add pepperoni slices, distributing evenly over the cheese layer.
- Repeat layers.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Serve.
I say “about 4 cups” on the pasta amount because I’ve gotten away with a slightly lesser amount when necessary.
I always precook my pepperoni slices a bit and blot them to remove the grease because although I love pepperoni, I don’t like the amount of grease that pepperoni can add to recipes when it’s not precooked.