Lasagna Quinoa Bake with Chicken, Spinach and Mushrooms
It’s sort of a joke amongst my family members that I have terrible taste in movies. This is completely ridiculous and based on a one-time claim that A Night at the Roxbury was the best movie I had ever seen. So, pretty much anytime I recommend a movie, somebody will be like, “Well, you thought A Night at the Roxbury was the greatest movie of all time…”
Needless to say, such dismissal of my cinematic opinions needles me. First of all, I made the above statement when I was 10 years old, and at that time, it actually was the best movie I had ever seen. Also, A Night at the Roxbury is an excellent film, so I’m not sure why everyone is hating.
Although I truly believe that I have decent movie taste, I’ll admit that I’m mostly into contemporary romantic comedies and the occasional psychological thriller. I’ve seen very few “classics,” a sad fact that deeply upsets my film buff father, who’s constantly trying to teach me to appreciate “real movies.” Because I love him (and want him to let go of the Roxbury incident ASAP), I usually agree to watch at least one of his favorites whenever I visit.
Last weekend’s trip to Santa Barbara was no exception.
After a couple glasses of wine on Saturday night, I made the mistake of admitting that I had never seen The Godfather. The look of horror on my dad’s face was bad enough, but then my roommate got in on the shaming (unforgivable), and they both decided an immediate screening was necessary.
Sure, I appreciated the epic nature of the movie, and I was obviously entertained, but DEAR GOD, it’s long. So long. And since my dad and Logan fell asleep almost immediately, I had to turn up the volume to ridiculous levels just to hear over their joint death snores. This was fine for dialogue, but do you know how many people get shot in The Godfather? Loud dialogue is fine, unexpected gunshots at that decibel are not. I had like 16 mini heart attacks and spilled two glasses of water. (It’s also my pet peeve when people sleep during movies. Who am I supposed to discuss things with?)
Truth be told, I started to zone out after the first two hours, focusing mainly on Diane Keaton’s wardrobe and the number of times people are shown eating or talking about lasagna and cannoli. By the time the credits finally rolled, I’d decided to start wearing more belted dresses (they really worked for Diane) and to make some lasagna, stat. Silver linings.
I have yet to procure said waist-whittling dresses, but I did make good on the lasagna yesterday in the form of this glorious Lasagna Quinoa Bake with Chicken, Spinach and Mushrooms.
I know I get excited about every recipe around these parts, but I’m downright giddy over this one, peeps. I’d go so far as to say this is my best quinoa bake yet, which is a bold statement given fall’s magical kabocha squash creation and last summer’s caprese madness. This thing is straight-up delicious insanity, and I feel weirdly proud and emotional about it.
Just to break it down, the sexy bake on your screen involves a hearty (and healthy) combo of ground chicken, sautéed mushrooms, spinach, and onions simmered gently with crushed San Marzano tomatoes and plenty of fresh basil. Traditional lasagna noodles are replaced with nutrient-rich quinoa, which gets folded into the chronic meat sauce along with creamy ricotta and fresh mozzarella. The filling is then transferred to a baking dish, topped with more Mozzarella, Parmesan and whole-wheat Panko, before being baked to bubbling, golden-brown perfection. It’s all the addictive and comforting flavors of lasagna in trendy quinoa casserole form. Boom.
The ingredient list is long, yes, but please don’t get all worked up over it. Everything is easily accessible, and you should already have a lot of the basics on hand. And while you’ll need to do a solid 30 minutes or so of hands-on prep, I promise the process is simple (chop, sauté, mix, bake) and pretty much idiot-proof. You can also assemble the casserole up to two days in advance and then just pop it in the oven when the mood strikes. Double boom.
The power of this quinoa bake is strong, friends, and I plan to capitalize on it. You should too. (In all future negotiations, just say, “If you do x, I will make the Lasagna Quinoa Bake.” It’s an offer they can’t refuse…)
Lasagna Quinoa Bake with Chicken, Spinach and Mushrooms: (Serves 4-6)
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces baby bella mushrooms (about 6 mushrooms), stems removed and finely chopped
1 pound ground chicken
5 ounces (1 clamshell) baby spinach
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (I recommend San Marzano.)
8 basil leaves, finely chopped (plus extra for serving)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
½ cup ricotta cheese
6 ounces grated mozzarella cheese (about 1½ cups)
¼ cup grated Parmesan
¼ cup whole-wheat Panko breadcrumbs
Preparing your Lasagna Quinoa Bake with Chicken, Spinach and Mushrooms:
-In a small pot, bring the quinoa and 1½ cups water to a boil. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting, cover the pot with a lid, and cook for 14 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. Let the quinoa rest, covered, for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
-Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.
-Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, garlic and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms are tender.
-Add the ground chicken and cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring and breaking up the meat with a spatula or wooden spoon, until no longer pink.
-Add the spinach. It will seem like too much, but it isn’t. I promise.
-Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the spinach has wilted.
-Stir in the tomatoes, basil, salt, red pepper, oregano, and sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes until thickened. (If your meat sauce is too runny, your quinoa bake won’t set properly, capiche?)
-Fold the quinoa, ricotta, and ½ cup of grated mozzarella into the sauce, making sure everything is well combined. (It’s not the prettiest, I know.)
-Transfer the quinoa mixture to a medium baking dish (I used a 9”x13” dish) and smooth the top. Sprinkle the remaining grated mozzarella over the filling in an even layer. Then add the Parmesan and Panko.
-Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is lightly browned and the cheese is bubbling. (If the top isn’t browning as much as you’d like, just pop it under the broiler for a minute or so at the end.)
-Let your lasagna quinoa bake cool for 5 minutes before serving. Feel free to garnish with extra basil and crushed red pepper if you’re into that.
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