Cooking With Confidence
quinoa casserole
Economical, Main Dishes, Vegetarian

Quinoa Casserole

by Nick

This week and next I’m on a mission. First, I’m using as few pots and pans as possible for each meal I post (because I only have a few in my empty kitchen now). Second, I also want to try to use up as much of the food that I’ve accumulated in my fridge/pantry/freezer as possible before I hit the road next weekend (30th).

That’s why I was super-excited when you guys voted for a casserole dish. It won by maybe the largest margin ever by the way. You all were really itching for a casserole and I knew it’d give me the chance to get rid of some stuff!

This, my friends, is a unique casserole. It’s actually based off of a recipe for a couscous casserole but I wasn’t going to go out and buy couscous just for this one dish so I decided to use some leftover quinoa I had on hand. It worked way better than I expected.

Yield
Makes an 9x9 dish.
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Quinoa Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 medium squash or zucchini, sliced
  • 1 28 ounce can whole or crushed tomatoes (not sauce though)
  • Roughly 3 Cups cooked quinoa (you can use couscous as well, you could use 1.5 cups uncooked couscous)
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • Pinch paprika
  • Pinch of fresh (or dry) thyme
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions

1) If you're using quinoa, cook it according to package before starting casserole.  Ideally, you could use leftover quinoa for this dish.  Otherwise you can use couscous, but don't pre-cook the couscous.

2) Start by slicing the squash/zucchini and laying it out on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until soft but not soggy at all.

3) In a medium sauce pan, add about a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions and red peppers.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

4) Add tomatoes and spices and stir.  Bring to a simmer and turn down heat.

5) Add quinoa or couscous and cook until thick.  Taste for seasonings.

6) Butter a 9x9 baking dish and add a thin layer of sauce to the bottom of the dish.  Then add a layer of vegetables and ricotta cheese.

7) Layer on most of the sauce, followed by more zucchini, followed by the rest of the ricotta and sauce.  Top with grated parmesan cheese.

8) Bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbling, about 30-40 minutes.

9) Let cool for a few minutes and serve.

Adapted from a recipe in How to Cook Everything.

This casserole was much better than it looks. In fact, even though I wasn’t actually trying to make it meaty, it turned out being more meaty than my vegetarian sloppy joes yesterday! The quinoa/tomato combo had great texture and flavor.

Prepping the Zucchini

This is actually a layered casserole dish and one of the layers is some sort of squash or zucchini. Use whatever you can find that looks really fresh. Probably this time of year, squash might be easier. Slice it not too thin and lay the slices on a baking sheet so they slightly overlap.

Then drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

zucchini

Ready to bake!

You want the slices to be slightly soft, but not soggy at all and not burned for sure.

These are about perfect. When you pull them out, just set them aside. We’ll use them later.

cooked zucchini

Just until it’s soft.

The Quinoa

So like I said, I’ve been desperately trying to use up food I have before I leave for Colorado. I had a huge block of frozen quinoa in my freezer which was kind of the inspiration for this dish.

Want to see what frozen quinoa looks like? It’s not the most appealing thing in the world.

frozen

Quinoa on ice.

But honestly quinoa freezes perfectly fine and then you can add it to all kinds of soups or stews or whatever. It’s not quite as good as fresh if you just eat it alone, but it’s wonderful as an add-in which is why I freeze some when I make it!

If you don’t want to make a batch of quinoa for this casserole then you can definitely use couscous which you can just throw into the sauce at the end of it. That would be equally good I think and what the original recipe actually called for.

The Sauce

Before we add in the quinoa (or couscous), let’s build up some flavors.

First, in your pot (I only have one and it’s a medium sized one), add a good drizzle of olive oil (1 Tablespoon about) and set it over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the chopped onions and peppers.

Let this cook for a few minutes until the veggies are getting soft.

starting sauce

Basic stuff.

Then add the canned tomatoes along with a good pinch of salt and pepper, some paprika, and fresh thyme if you have some on hand (or dried is fine too). Stir this all together and let it simmer down for a few minutes.

Then go ahead and stir in either your quinoa or couscous! The couscous will soak up way more liquid than the quinoa. If you use quinoa, let it simmer for a few more minutes to get thick.

This is what you’re looking for.

sauce mixed

All mixed up!

Making the Casserole

Once you have the zucchini and sauce done, it’s time to put it all together. I decided to put in some layers of ricotta to make the dish a bit richer. You could also cook up some ground turkey/beef and add that to the mix.

Start by lightly buttering a 9×9 baking dish and spoon in a thin layer of sauce in the bottom. Then add a layer of squash/zucchini and crumble on some ricotta.

layer one

Get it?

Then most of your remaining sauce, another layer of veggies, and more ricotta. Finish the dish off with a layer of sauce.

casserole

Lookin’ good.

You can bake this right away or make it the day before and store it in the fridge until you need it.

Baking time

When you’re ready to bake the casserole, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grate some Parmesan cheese on top of the casserole. The Parmesan cheese is optional, but I think it adds a good flavor.

I, of course, packed my grater so I just sliced of some thin slices and added those on top. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until it’s bubbling all over.

Let it cool for a minute and then serve it up!

slice

This warmed the soul!

This was kind of a messy dish but the flavor was awesome. If you use couscous I think it would firm up even more.

I was really impressed by the flavor and texture that the quinoa gave the dish though. Definitely a keeper.

Share this post!

13 comments on “Quinoa Casserole

  1. Nick,
    This is exactly what I didn't know I wanted when I voted for casserole last week. It's cheap, easy, and looks really. I'm sure I'll be making it soon as it gets colder. I do have one question: do you have any recommendations for making this recipe for someone who is allergic to dairy and eggs? Would I need something to make it stick together or would it hold up ok?

    Thanks for another great recipe!

    1. If you were going for dairy free, i'd try the couscous method. I think it would firm up better. If you're a meat eater, you could add a layer of ground beef/turkey/chicken instead of the ricotta to give it some richness.

      Breadcrumbs on top would give a good crust as well ;)

      Let me know how it goes!

    2. I love quinoa, this is great. It's like a noddle-less lasagna.

      Alyssa- I have a recipe on my blog for a dairy-free ricotta that is made from tofu. Sounds crazy, but it's totally delicious. I can't count the number of dairy-eaters I've fooled with it. I just used it in a lasagna this week. You can omit the nutritional yeast and it doesn't really affect it one way or the other. http://nomnomnomblog.com/2009/01/20/im-an-america

  2. Looks fantastic! Sadly, I've never been a fan of zucchini- would you suggest any other vegetable?

  3. Boy this dish sure ain't the best looking dinner I've ever seen. But knowing how the ingredients will blend I'm sure it will taste a lot better than it looks.

    And after all, my tounge and stomach don't care what it looks like.

  4. New reader here – Made this for dinner tonight. Added some garlic, a layer of spinach, and crushed red pepper. Came out great – my boyfriend and I loved it!

    Thanks!

  5. This look really good. I am going to try it for dinner using eggplant instead of zucchini!! I'll let you know how it turns out.

  6. I added chickpeas to the tomato mixture, and it was great!
    I would also recommend mixing an egg in with the ricotta to help it spread easier, add protein, and firm up a little better. This was a great dish, I'm so glad I tried it!

  7. Great dish! Economical, veg-heavy, and full of flavor. I needed to use up some ingredients we had languishing in the fridge, so I replaced the zucchini and ricotta with baby bella mushrooms and mozzarella cheese, respectively. My family loved the results and we agreed to cook this again soon.

  8. to make it more lasagna-esque, i sprinkled the top with grated mozzarella cheese. i also didn’t bother baking the zucchini – the sauce cooked it in the oven.

  9. I made this the other night and just had my second day of lunch leftovers. SO GOOD! The only things I changed were the addition of two minced garlic cloves to the sauce and I topped it off with breadcrumbs for extra crunch. Because I didn’t have a 9×9 pan I made it in a 9×13 with just a single layer of zucchini. I found that my quinoa tomato mixture wasn’t as red and tomato-ey as the photo but it was still delicious and managed to hold together in squares. This is so easy to make and worth it’s weight in tastiness. THANK YOU!

Leave a Comment