This recipe is from Every Night Italian by Giuliano Hazan. It is what I refer to as a no brainer recipe. Yes, you have to make a sauce and make the rice but it freezes perfectly. I made this a couple of weeks ago and of course made enough for 2 dinners. Tonight’s was from the freezer. We defrosted it and it baked for about 30 minutes. And I served it with Marcella Hazan’s Sauce, also from the freezer.
1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice
4 tbsp butter, plus more for the rice and the baking dish
2 cups milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Freshly ground pepper
6 oz. boiled ham, sliced fairly thin and chopped
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
6 oz. fresh mozzarella
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Fill a pot with at least 3 quarts water and bring to a boil. Add 2 tsp salt and the rice and stir well. Cook covered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked but still firm to the bite. Drain and transfer to a mixing bowl. Toss the rice with a bit of butter to prevent the grains from sticking together.
While the rice is cooking, make a béchamel sauce. Heat the milk until you can see steam rising, being careful not to let it come to a boil. Melt the 4 tbsp butter in a heavy sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Add the hot milk, a few tablespoons at a time at first, whisking until the mixture is smooth before adding more milk. Do not be alarmed if the béchamel becomes very thick at first. It will get thinner as you whisk in more milk. Once it has become quite thin, you can pour the milk in more rapidly. Cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat until the sauce thickly coats the whisk. Season with salt and pepper before removing from the heat.
Pour the béchamel over the rice, reserving a few spoonfuls for the top of the casserole. Add the ham and all but 2 tbsp of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper.
Butter the bottom and sides of a 2 1/2 quart baking that is about 3 inches deep. Pour in half of the rice mixture. Slice the mozzarella about 1/8 inch thick and layer the slices over the rice. Add the remaining rice mixture and smooth the surface with a spoon. Spread the remaining béchamel over the top and sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Bake for 15 minutes. If after 15 minutes the top is not speckled with brown, place the casserole under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the top beings to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to settle for about 5 minutes before serving.