Toss Quinoa With Your Favorite Pasta Sauce For An Easy And Filling Weeknight Meal

As quinoa has worked its way into the mainstream in the last several years, we've realized how versatile it is, and how nicely it lends itself to making an easy one-pot meal. In fact, if you've got a box in your pantry, you're on your way to a simple but satisfying solution to an easy dinner without sacrificing nutrition. There are many ways of using quinoa, like trying out this one-pan quinoa enchilada skillet recipe, but simply tossing it with your favorite pasta sauce can bring a filling, well-balanced meal to the table quickly.

Quinoa is a seed, not a grain, with a fluffy texture yet a moderately chewy bite similar to al dente pasta, making it a great vehicle for different types of pasta sauces. Because of its slightly chewy consistency, it absorbs the boldest of flavors, but stands up to sauce as sufficiently as your average pasta noodle. Quinoa is a surprisingly good base for a range of sauces, whether homemade or jarred. When properly cooked, it develops a deliciously nutty profile; because of this taste, it loves herbs and garlic, and pairs well with tomato- and cream-based sauces, as well as pesto. Cooking a batch at home is a breeze, similar to setting a pot of rice on the stove. You can opt for plain or flavored quinoa, or try simmering it in vegetable or chicken broth instead of water for more depth of flavor (just watch the salt content of the pasta sauce on top of the broth).

Tips for making a saucy quinoa dish

There are two simple tips for quinoa preparation. First, start by rinsing the quinoa to mellow any bitter flavors, unless the label states it's pre-rinsed. Next, get the ratio right. Most quinoa instructions indicate a 2:1 cooking ratio (2 cups of water to 1 cup of quinoa). This works for a fluffier, more aerated quinoa, but to serve it with pasta sauce, we've found that 1 ¾ cups of water for 1 cup of quinoa hits the mark. This will yield a chewier texture that's perfect for tossing with sauce. Boil the water and quinoa, reduce the heat, and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes before removing the pot from the heat and letting the quinoa rest.

When you're ready for your favorite sauce, there are two ways to assemble this easy, filling meal. You can stir in the sauce and allow it to be absorbed and mixed in, or you can simply top your quinoa with the sauce of your choice. For a sauce you fold into quinoa, try this bright and fresh pesto. Garnish with sauteed vegetables and a squeeze of lemon to brighten up this fuss-free dish, or add protein like shrimp or chicken to round it out. Instead of mixing in sauce, try topping prepared quinoa with your favorite leftover ragù, like a classic Bolognese or an Alfredo. Busy day? Hit the grocery store and add your favorite jar of pasta sauce to pre-prepared quinoa.