Batch making meals and freezing them helps save time and help eliminate food waste. Freezer meals also make great gifts for new moms, grandparents, or those dealing with medical issues. Let’s get freezing!
Freezing Rock Stars
- Stews, soups, broths, smoothies, and other mostly liquid dishes freeze the best.
- Baked casseroles, pasta dishes, pie crusts, and cookie doughs also freeze well.
- When freezing baked goods like pancakes or cookies, separate them with parchment or wax paper to avoid sticking.
- Limit opening the freezer to keep the temperature constant.
- Before freezing, cool your dish to room temperature
- Using individual or smaller containers to freeze allows you to defrost and heat only what you need to use at a time. –
- 3 months is the general rule of thumb for freezing, but for the full breakdown, you can check out the FoodSafety.gov chart.
Thawing and Reheating
- Allow meals to defrost in the fridge overnight the day before you plan on using it.
- Only defrost breads and pastries at room temperature.
- Containers that can be frozen and are oven-proof allow for the least mess (and who doesn’t want fewer dishes to clean) and help keep the dish intact.
- Reheating times and temperatures vary by dish, so make sure to check the recipe for exact times.
- Only refreeze foods that have been defrosted in the refrigerator
- If refreezing food that’s been heated, make sure to cool it to room temperature as you did when originally freezing.
- Don’t refreeze a meal more than once.
Freezer-friendly Baked Ziti
Our favorite recipe to freeze is Baked Ziti. This recipe can be made in one 13 x 9” glass casserole dish or 5 separate 3.5 cup volume food storage containers. It makes 10 hearty servings and could be stretched to more if you needed it.
The thing we loved best about this recipe is its flexibility especially when our local stores aren’t stocked as they normally are. We had shredded Colby Jack on-hand that worked well and even threw in Swiss cheese for a sample batch that came out delicious. You can also swap out the pasta for what you have. We couldn’t find traditional ziti at the store and used rigatoni, you could also use Penne. The ground beef can be substituted with ground sausage which is what we had to do when ground beef wasn’t available.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
- 1 pound ground beef or sweet Italian sausage (remove casings if using links)
- ½ a small onion finely chopped
- 1 – 25.5-ounce jar of Marinara sauce
- 1 – 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 – 16-ounce box of ziti (or rigatoni or penne)
- 1 – 15-ounce container of ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- 4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1 cup Colby Jack cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 375° F
- Coat 13 x 9” glass casserole dish or 5 – 3.5 cup glass food containers with non-stick spray.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, brown ground meat, and onion. Drain off any excess liquid.
- Add Marinara sauce and San Marzano tomatoes to pan with browned meat. Stir and bring to a slight boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to break up tomatoes.
- In large pasta pot, add salt to the water and come to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente.
- In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and the Parmesan cheese.
- Layer the ingredients in your dish(es) starting with the sauce, then pasta, then ricotta sauce, more of the sauce, then another layer of pasta and top with the mozzarella and Colby Jack cheese.
- Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown on top and bubbly. (When heating from frozen, make sure to check the center to make sure that it is done. The dish can bubble on the sides and still be cold in the center.)