Spinach Quinoa "Mac & Cheese"

Just so no one feels misled - the "mac & cheese" bit of the title is in quotations for a reason. This isn't a regular mac & cheese - which I love - this is a bit healthier, and it's made with quinoa and a dose of veggies instead of pasta. That doesn't mean this isn't stellar - it is - it's just that if you're looking for real mac & cheese (or even a healthier version), you're barking up the wrong tree. I just LOVE that phrase - isn't it great?! The visual is just amazing. Someone standing under a tree, looking up into the leaves, barking. Then realizing, "Ooops. Wrong tree." This quinoa mac & cheese was adapted from Eat, Live, Run's Spinach and Cheese Quinoa Casserole. I changed a few things here and there, making it a bit healthier as well as vegetarian. But you'd never know it was lightened up from the taste - or from the way your house will smell as this casserole bakes, i.e. AMAZING. It's one of those happy compromise dishes - it's full of veggies and healthy protein, but still has enough cheese to make it delicious. It would make a great vegetarian side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner - something that everyone can enjoy, vegetarians and carnivores alike. 

 

Spinach Quinoa "Mac & Cheese"

adapted from Eat, Live, Run

serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 orange bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and liquid squeezed out
  • 1 Tbsp + 2 tsp Canola oil, divided
  • 1 cup 1% milk
  • 6 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan, finely grated
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Add 1 Tbsp Canola oil to a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chopped bell pepper, scallions, and spinach and saute for a few minutes (about 4), until the pepper begins to soften. Add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds, until garlic is fragrant. 
  2. Add quinoa to the pot along with the vegetable broth, salt, dry mustard, and pepper, stirring well. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until all of the liquid has been absorbed by the quinoa. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  3. While the quinoa cooks and the oven preheats, combine the grated Parmesan with the panko bread crumbs and 2 tsp Canola oil in a small bowl. Set aside. Spray a 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
  4. Add the grated cheddar cheese and milk to the quinoa mixture - stir to combine and remove from heat. Pour quinoa mixture into baking dish. Sprinkle the Parmesan and breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top of the casserole.
  5. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes until golden brown. Serve immediately.

 

Find similar recipes at Feastie:

Butternut Gruyere Quinoa Gratin from Feastie
Broccoli Cheese Soup Lightened Up from Feastie
Creamy Baked Mac & Cheese from Cheater Bites
Classic Mac and Cheese from Annie's Eats
Classic Baked Mac & Cheese from Good Thymes & Good Food

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