Quick and easy is my middle name when it comes to cooking. So prepping weeknight dinners has to be simple, straightforward and healthy. Not many of us have time to sweat it out in the kitchen over complex recipes these days.
To that point, I’m a big fan of old-school casseroles that meet all of my nutritional needs in one dish, and this one-dish enchilada pasta fits the bill. Pair it with a tossed salad, and voila, dinner is served.
Healthy Enchilada Pasta
This recipe is something that will satisfy the heartiest appetites in the house. It’s also flexible. The recipe is prepared as a vegetarian main dish.
However, just add grilled chicken breasts, either on the side or diced and added to the casserole, and you have a dish that’s adaptable to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Take the cheese out completely, and it’s suitable for vegans as well.
The key to making this one healthy and not oozing with a ton of artery-clogging cheese, is to amp up the Southwestern spin with classic spices and veggies. I used organic corn, black olives, cilantro, lime wedges and avocados to liven up the flavors.
Another great reason to include casseroles in your recipe arsenal is they make great leftovers! I think casseroles are even better the next day or two when the flavors have really melded together nicely. And nothing is easier if you’re packing lunch for the office.
And cooking the pasta with the bubbling enchilada sauce, refried beans and fire-roasted tomatoes allows the pasta to take on the full flavors of the dish. So much so that the need for cheese is minimal.
For my taste, I used 4 ounces of an almond-based, vegan jalapeño-jack that gave the casserole an extra zing. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of cheese, so choose your favorite type and try to keep it low-fat. The way I look at it, this adds minimal calories and fat for maximum flavor.
For the pasta, I chose Ancient Grains’ quinoa and corn rotini. I prefer the corn-based flavor, especially for an enchilada dish where traditionally corn tortillas would be used. I was also looking for a gluten-free option. Feel free to substitute your favorite type of pasta. I would stay away from rice pastas, however, as they generally are a bit more fragile and finicky in casseroles.
Be sure to cook the ingredients until the past is just al dente in texture. Overcooking will result in a mushy casserole, which might taste OK, but will be visually unappealing.
The recipe calls for 2 cups of uncooked pasta. It’s also super easy to increase the servings on this dish if you’ve got a bigger crowd to feed. Just add another cup of pasta, another 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce and another 1/2 cup of vegetable broth for a bigger batch.
Top it Off
The key to serving a casserole and making it really special is in the presentation. Topping this dish with chopped cilantro, green onions, diced jalapeños, a dollop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, and a squeeze of lime can make all the difference between ho-hum and amazing.
- 2 cups uncooked pasta
- 1 cup red enchilada sauce prepared
- 1 cup refried beans fat-free, vegetarian
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 15 oz. can organic corn
- 1/2 cup black olives sliced
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1.5 tsp. cumin
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup jalapeno-jack cheese grated
- Chopped cilantro
- Chopped green onions
- Sliced black olives
- Diced avocado
- Sour cream or plain Green yogurt
- Lime wedges
- Diced jalapenos