My Grandma's Broccoli au Gratin Is the Comfort Food I Can't Live Without — and the Recipe Came from a Box

This easy baked broccoli and cheese casserole tastes like a hug from Grandma.

Broccoli gratin in a baking dish
Photo: Getty Images

My grandma is an astonishingly talented Italian cook; her red sauce is what dreams are made of. And while I grew up spoiled rotten with every Southern Italian dish imaginable lovingly made for family dinners, my grandma also had a few decisively American recipes kicking around her recipe box.

Like many other women in America of her generation, my grandmother was a working mom in the 1970s. Some of the classic Italian recipes like an all-day red sauce or homemade pasta just weren't in the cards on a weeknight when dinner needed to be on the table fast.

With the advent of microwave cooking and entire dinners out of a box, more and more brands featured recipes on the backs of packages, and these semi-homemade recipes debuted on dinner tables across the country. One such recipe, my grandma's broccoli au gratin, has had a starring role in family dinners throughout my childhood and still today. I'm not sure exactly where she found this recipe; she says she doesn't remember, as she's been making it since my 50-something-year-old dad and aunt were in primary school. Yet, she's sure she initially cut it from a box or bag.

Grandma Bev's broccoli au gratin is a roux-based cheese sauce poured over broccoli and baked in the oven. But, to me, it's more than that — it's love. It's the dish I have requested birthday after birthday and every time I visited home from college. It's the dish my grandma brings to every Christmas dinner. It's the dish my grandma and I shared in silence at the dinner table the first week after my grandfather passed. Even now, after years of training as a professional cook, I still can't quite make it exactly as my grandma does, but honestly, I'm OK with that.

Grandma Bev's Broccoli au Gratin

If you're familiar with making a cheese sauce for homemade mac and cheese, this procedure will look familiar to you but with one secret ingredient: cream cheese. The addition of even such a small amount makes the sauce impossibly velvety and coats the florets of broccoli beautifully. The one slight adjustment I make to my grandma's original recipe is the addition of a few splashes of hot sauce. It doesn't add any noticeable heat, but the acid and spice really round out the ultra-rich sauce.


Two heads of broccoli cut into bite-sized florets

6 tablespoons of butter, divided

4 tablespoons of flour

1 quart of milk

8 oz of your favorite Cheddar cheese, shredded

2 oz of cream cheese

Two or three shakes of your favorite hot sauce (I like a Louisiana style)

1/2c. Seasoned breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Once boiling, drop the broccoli in for 2 minutes then strain. Briefly run broccoli under cold water for a few seconds to cool it down. Set aside in the strainer.
  3. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt 4 tbsp. butter. Once butter is melted, whisk in the flour, sprinkling it evenly over the pan. Whisk together to form a roux and cook for 4-5 minutes until the roux is slightly darkened.
  4. Carefully pour in about ⅓ of the milk whisking vigorously to prevent lumps. The mixture will thicken to a paste-like consistency. Add in the rest of the milk little by little, whisking in between each addition to avoid lumps. Once all the milk is incorporated, season liberally with salt and pepper, then add the Cheddar, cream cheese, and hot sauce whisking to combine.
  5. Simmer until all the cheese has melted, whisking occasionally to prevent sticking.
  6. Taste the sauce; it should be runnier and saltier than it feels like it should be. The sauce will thicken as it cooks and also provide salt to the broccoli.
  7. Make sure broccoli is dry; spread it out in a glass baking dish. Carefully pour cheese sauce over the broccoli, ensuring all the florets are coated. Top with breadcrumbs and the remaining 2 tbsp. of butter, broken up into tiny pieces, dotted over the top.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 10 minutes until everything is brown, bubbly, and delicious.


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