Since starting a new job, I’ve been doing a fair amount of dinner prep on Sunday night for Monday (and sometimes Tuesday). Whenever possible, I like to prep pretty much all of Monday’s meal while I’m making Sunday’s dinner, so that Tom just needs to pop it in the oven or heat it on the stove when he gets home (about 15 minutes before me).
The nice thing is most of these dishes tend to be baked pastas, chicken casseroles, etc. and make for lunch leftovers, too. The bad thing is most of these dishes tend to be baked pastas, chicken casseroles, etc. and I don’t want to make the same thing every week.
This meal definitely started as the idea of a baked pasta in my mind, but it utilizes quinoa instead of pasta and chicken, where most baked pasta dishes either lack a protein or use something like ground beef or sausage. The result is a meal that is tasty, healthy, packs a crazy protein punch, and can be made in advance. All good by me.
I made a really simple sauce for this, but if you’re not feeling it, you can always use the jarred stuff. I meant to add spinach to this to make it a full meal, but of course I didn’t see the spinach until I was putting this into the fridge, fully assembled. So, we just had spinach salads instead. :)
Baked Quinoa and Chicken Parmesan
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
basil and oregano, to taste
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water or broth
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken, cooked* and cut into bite sized pieces
2/3 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 Tbsp. breadcrumbs (optional)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 and spray a 2 qt. baking dish with cooking oil.
Make the sauce:
Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add the oil. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Add the balsamic vinegar, scraping anything off the bottom of the pan, and cook until it’s almost fully absorbed.
Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, red pepper flakes, basil, ,oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a low boil, and then simmer while you prepare the rest of the meal.
Make the quinoa:
Place the quinoa in a mesh strainer, and rinse with cold water for about 2 minutes.
Place the quinoa and water or broth in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil (if using water, you may want to add a little salt). Cover with a lid, reduce the heat, and simmer until cooked, about 20-25 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the quinoa and chicken with the sauce and mix thoroughly.
Place half the mixture in the baking dish, and sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Top with the remaining quinoa mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese, and the Parmesan. Add the breadcrumbs, if using.
Cover with foil and bake for about 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly, about 10 more minutes.
Sprinkle with parsley (and additional Parmesan) before serving, if desired.
*I seasoned my chicken with Italian seasoning, and then pan-fried it in about 1 tablespoon of oil. You can cook the chicken any way you like.