Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini

  • 2 large or 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 cup quinoa, precooked & cooled
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 10-12 pieces of pearl mozzarella (the kind that come in a small tub)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Cut off the thick stems at the top. Using a small metal spoon, carefully scrap out the inside of the zucchini to create “boats”. (Leave a little inside for structure so that they don’t fall apart.)
  3. Using paper towels, squeeze excess moisture from the zucchini pulp over the sink. Measure out 1 cup of shredded zucchini into a large bowl.
  4. Add the precooked & cooled quinoa of your choice to the zucchini pulp. Add the tomato sauce, parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, garlic & crushed red pepper. Stir until everything is combined. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  5. Spoon the sauce/quinoa mixture into the zucchini boats & place them on a lined sheet pan. Cut the mozzarella balls in half & place them evenly on top of the stuffed zucchini.
  6. Cook for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of the zucchini, until the filling is bubbling & the mozzarella is melted. Let them cool slightly, about 5 minutes, before serving.

Suggestions & Substitutions: I used a simple instant red and black quinoa package that you make in the microwave, because if there’s one thing I always seem to mess up, it’s cooking grains on the stovetop. (I still never feel like I get rice quite right.) It is totally your call on how you want to make it. This is a great recipe if you happen to have leftover quinoa laying around from another meal.

Does the color matter? Not really. White/tan quinoa tends to be the most delicate and as it gets darker (red and black) they have more flavor, texture and fiber. The flavor will be dominated by the sauce here, so I went with the mixture of red and black because I wanted that added texture and fiber in the recipe.

This is a vegetarian meal, as I mentioned, but if you want to switch out the parmesan for some breadcrumbs or nutritional yeast and omit the mozzarella, you have a vegan meal!




Spinach & Artichoke Pasta Bake

It’s been a while. Before I start, I want to point out that there’s the slightly new & more streamlined format for The Picky Gourmet posts. It’s gonna go like: short introduction to quell the general online jokes about bloggers talking too much when people just want the food (ha), the coveted recipe itself, followed by any suggestions or possible substitutions, & finally all the process photos are at the end for the visual learners.

OK, the elephant in the room here is that my big return to blog recipes happens to be right when grocery stores are the last place most people want to be. I hope everyone out there is staying safe, washing hands & keeping calm during this time while we are all trying to deal with this virus.

The good news is, this recipe happens to use a lot of ingredients you might already have on hand. Well, as long as you didn’t blow your whole grocery budget on toilet paper. Surprisingly, for a dish that is full of fresh, herbaceous flavor, the only things you actually need from produce are an onion & garlic (which I feel like most people have laying around anyway). Everything else is a pantry pull!

So let’s fire up the oven, hunker down with a glass of wine & make a…

Spinach & Artichoke Pasta Bake

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/2 yellow or white onion, diced
  • 16 oz whole grain rotini pasta
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz frozen spinach, thawed & drained of excess moisture
  • 6 oz jarred artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Peel off the “paper” of the garlic, chop off the top & place it on a piece of tin foil. Drizzle the garlic with olive oil & close the foil around it. Roast for 45-50 minutes. Let it cool & squeeze the roasted garlic into a small bowl & mash with a fork. (Here is a quick little video from The Kitchn if you have never done this before & are unsure).
  2. Meanwhile, on the stovetop, cook the diced onion in a Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat, about 5-7 minutes until they become translucent & develop a golden brown color. Set aside to cool.
  3. At the same time, you can also cook your pasta on the stovetop as well. Cook about 1 minute less than package instructions. Once it’s done, drain the water & season the pasta with a touch of olive oil, half of the dried basil & oregano (1/2 Tbsp of each) & a pinch of salt & pepper.
  4. Bring the oven down to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, cooked onions & spinach. Add in the roasted garlic, chopped artichoke hearts, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, half of the parmesan & pecorino cheeses (1/4 cup each), with the crushed red pepper, the rest of the dried basil & oregano, & a pinch of salt & pepper.
  5. Gently fold the pasta into the ricotta cheese mixture until well incorporated. Transfer to a 9×13 baking dish & top with the mozzarella cheese & the remaining parmesan & pecorino.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown & bubbly. A minute under the broiler can help develop color at the end, but keep an eye on it.

Suggestions & Substitutions: obviously any pasta can be used here, as long as it isn’t a long noodle like spaghetti. Ziti, penne, cavatappi, anything like that would be great. I like using the whole grain here, because there’s so much flavor & cheese, why not sneak in a little extra fiber in there? Since this is a vegetarian recipe, protein infused pasta would be another great choice.

The key with these specific pantry ingredients is taking away the excess moisture. Obviously, frozen spinach needs to be thawed & have all that water squeezed out of it. I used the sun-dried tomatoes that come in a packet, but if you already have the jarred/oil-packed kind, just dab them with a paper towel. The tomatoes & artichoke hearts (which I always buy in a jar) don’t have to be bone dry, but just enough to avoid too much oil in the mixture.

While this makes a great meatless Monday or vegetarian dinner, if you want some added protein, throw some cubed rotisserie chicken in there or even some crumbled sausage. And if you want to cut back on the cheese, you could skip the top layer of mozzarella. (I mean, I wouldn’t, but no judgement.)

And a final note on the cheese. I personally love the funky, strong flavor that pecorino adds to the dish. If you don’t have pecorino cheese or don’t feel like spending the extra money, you can use all parmesan. I just beg you to grate it yourself instead of using the green tube can.

And that’s that! Stay healthy, stay safe & keep cooking.