Casserole recipes are our saving grace throughout fall and winter. These filling, hardy meals often boast a creaminess, providing both sustenance and warmth; and the built-in crispy topping offers a textural contrast that keeps us engaged. But, beyond these characteristics, what exactly makes something a casserole? The name comes from the French word for “saucepan,” but we tend to define casseroles as any recipe baked in…well, a casserole dish (i.e. a glass or ceramic—or sometimes metal—baking dish.) 

Sweet or savory, big or small, dinner or breakfast, casseroles rely on the heat from an oven to unite—melt, roast, and caramelize—all the disparate ingredients into a singular whole. These pans of pure comfort are truly the sum of their parts: Think cheesy gratin, gooey lasagna, and comforting shepherd’s pie. Read on for our all-time favorite casserole recipes.