Riso al Forno is comfort food at its best! This baked rice dish combines Arborio rice, peas, and cheese that’s baked in a meat sauce until golden and bubbly. And riso al forno is a great gluten free alternative to baked pastas!
There are few things more comforting than baked pastas, but baked rice, or riso al forno, is up there!
This baked rice dish is an homage to Sicilian flavors with the addition of peas and Scamorza cheese. As always, feel free to omit an ingredient or two, if, for example, you don’t like peas.
My grandma would make this often, each time a little differently. Sometimes she’d include eggplant, other times it would be made similarly to this version with ground beef and peas.
No matter how she’d make it, I always loved it just as much as I did pasta al forno.
And since riso al forno is made with rice and naturally gluten-free, it is a wonderful alternative for those who can’t have regular pasta.
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Dice 1 medium onion and slice 5 cloves of garlic. Chop 1/4 cup of basil leaves (packed), and grate 3/4 cup of Pecorino Romano. Shred 2 cups of Scamorza cheese and set aside. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 2 pounds of ground beef chuck and cook for about 7-10 minutes, or until well-browned, then move to a plate leaving 3-4 tablespoons of fat in the pan. Note: a meat masher works well to help break up the meat!
- Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion. Saute for 5-7 minutes or until soft.
- Add the garlic and 2 small anchovy fillets and cook until fragrant and the anchovy dissolves, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Return the meat to the pan, add 3 ounces of tomato paste, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add 2 28-ounce cans of tomatoes (hand-crushed or blender-pulsed) and stir to incorporate. Once the sauce starts to bubble, reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for at least 20 minutes uncovered. Be sure to stir occasionally to avoid any sticking. Taste test the sauce and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
- While the sauce simmers, parboil 2 1/2 cups of Arborio rice in salted water for 8 minutes. Drain the rice and rinse it under cold water to stop the cooking process. Preheat the oven to 375f and set the rack to the middle level. In a large bowl combine the rice with 2 cups of thawed frozen peas and the basil.
- Move 3 cups of sauce to a bowl for later, and add the remaining sauce to the rice and pea mixture. Add half the Pecorino Romano and half the Scarmorza and stir to incorporate.
- Coat a 9×13 baking dish with half of the reserved sauce and pour the rice mixture into the dish.
- Top with the remaining sauce and cheese.
- Bake the rice for 30-35 minutes or until tender. For extra color, turn on the broiler and cook for 1-2 minutes longer but watch carefully to prevent burning. Wait at least 10-15 minutes before eating to give the riso al forno time to settle. Enjoy!
- Parboil the rice. Be sure to just partially cook the rice since it will continue to cook and become very tender after baking in the oven for 30-35 minutes.
- Sauce. You will use all the sauce for this recipe. If you are the type of person who likes to add extra sauce to baked pastas when they’re served, we recommend adding an additional 28-ounce can of tomatoes to the sauce. You’ll need to adjust the salt and pepper to taste, and the sauce will be thinner than the one we made here, but you’ll have the extra sauce you desire.
- Cheese. We used a blend of Pecorino Romano and Scarmorza cheese for our riso al forno. While Pecorino is easier to find, Scamorza can be more scarce. If you can’t find Scarmorza, smoked or regular mozzarella would be a great substitute.
- Variations. If you prefer to make this vegetarian, you can omit the ground beef and anchovy and use a basic marinara sauce. Feel free to substitute the peas for other veggies like asparagus or eggplant.
- Settle down. As with lasagna, or baked penne with sausage, it’s important to let the riso al forno settle a bit before eating. 15 minutes or so does the trick.
More rice recipes
If you love rice as much as we do, check out these other awesome rice recipes.
- Arancini – gently fried balls filled with ground beef, peas, and saffron rice.
- Risotto Milanese – creamy rice with saffron, Parmigiano Reggiano, and butter.
- Mushroom risotto – Arborio rice, shallots, mushrooms and Parmigiano Reggiano.
If you’ve enjoyed this baked riso al forno with peas or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and leave a review.
Riso al Forno
For the sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 5 cloves garlic sliced
- 2 small anchovy fillets optional
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 2 pounds ground chuck
- 3 ounces tomato paste
- 2 28 ounce cans plum tomatoes hand crushed or blender pulsed
- salt and pepper to taste
For the riso al forno
- 2 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 2 cups frozen peas thawed
- 2 cups scamorza shredded
- 1/4 packed cup basil leaves chopped
- 3/4 cup Pecorino Romano grated
For the sauce
- Heat a large saucepan to medium-high heat with olive oil. Add the beef and cook until browned (about 7-10 minutes). Remove the meat to a plate, leaving 3-4 tablespoons of the fat in the pan.
- Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion. Saute until soft (5-7 minutes) then add the garlic and anchovy and cook for another 2 minutes more or until fragrant and the anchovy dissolves. Add the hot red pepper flakes and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Return the meat to the pan and add the tomato paste. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the plum tomatoes and mix in to incorporate. Once the sauce starts bubbling, turn the heat down to a very low simmer.
- Cook for at least 20 minutes uncovered at a low simmer, stirring occasionally to avoid any sticking. Taste-test the sauce and adjust salt and pepper if required.
Assembling the riso al forno
- While the sauce is simmering parboil the rice in salted water for 8 minutes. Drain the rice and rinse under cold water. Mix the rice with the peas.
- Preheat oven to 375f and set the racks near the middle level.
- In a very large bowl combine the rice and peas with the sauce, reserving 3 cups of sauce for later. Also, mix in the basil, half of the scamorza cheese, and half of the pecorino.
- Coat a 9x13" baking dish with half of the remaining sauce. Pour the rice into the dish and top with the remaining sauce and cheese.
- Bake the rice for 30-35 minutes or until tender. For extra color broil for 1-2 more minutes but watch carefully! Wait at least 10-15 minutes before eating so that the rice settles. Enjoy!
- Makes 8 moderate-sized or 4-6 large portions.
- Parboil the rice! The rice is just partially cooked and will be cooked until tender in the oven.
- For extra color, broil for 1-2 minutes, but watch very carefully to avoid burning.
- Leftovers can be saved in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.