When I was growing up, we had Sunday Dinner at my grandma’s every single week. It wasn’t something that was put on the schedule. It didn’t require a phone call. It just was. Every Sunday, my grandma would cook a spread of pasta, meats, potatoes, vegetables, salad, and more. Our family (both immediate and extended) would show up around lunchtime, usually moseying in after church, and sit down to eat. We wouldn’t just eat dinner (which is what Italian families call lunch), we would spend the entire day there. Sometimes we’d play cards or games, or watch football, or complain that my uncle was watching golf… and sometimes we’d just sit around the table and BS.
Every Sunday. No exceptions.
My great aunt (my grandma’s sister) lived on the other side of the duplex that my grandparents lived in, and she often made a broccoli casserole on Sundays. I never had the recipe, but I know it was made with some cream of mushroom soup, I think frozen broccoli, and a Ritz cracker topping. It definitely fell into the category of comfort food, much like the scalloped potatoes that often graced the table that my cousin and I would hoard, right on through adulthood. We always devoured the broccoli casserole, and recently I was thinking about it, and wanted to recreate it, but with homemade, from-scratch adjustments.
I’ve long thought that this casserole would be a fabulous addition to a Thanksgiving spread, and finally sat down this year to put some thought into recreating a homemade version. This revamped version uses fresh broccoli, chopped mushrooms, an easy homemade white sauce, some cheddar cheese, and because I cannot quit Ritz crackers, I kept that same buttery cracker topping. The result was amazing, and brought back so many fun Sunday afternoon memories.
Sunday dinner is something I really miss and totally took for granted when I was younger; making dishes like this makes me feel closer to my grandma, who I miss tremendously. I’m so thankful that she fostered an environment that enabled us to make so many wonderful memories growing up.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish; set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to boil, add the broccoli and boil for 3 to 5 minutes, until still firm, but tender enough that a fork can pierce through. Drain the broccoli in a colander and rinse with cold water.
In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter, then add the onion and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release liquid and it has all evaporated, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter, then add the flour and stir until the mixture is lightly browned and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly begin to add the milk, whisking constantly until all of the milk has been added. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken. Add one-third of the shredded cheese and stir until completely melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved onions and mushrooms, then stir in the salt and pepper.
Place the broccoli in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with another one-third of the shredded cheese. Pour the sauce over the broccoli, then sprinkle with the remaining third of the shredded cheese. In a small bowl, combine the Ritz cracker crumbs and melted butter until all of the crumbs are moistened. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the casserole.
Bake in the preheated oven until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling, 15 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.