The Dish: Make-Ahead Meals

The Dish: Make-Ahead Meals

When I was pregnant with my first-born, Camden, one of the things I did to prepare for his arrival was make casseroles ahead of time and freeze them. That way, I didn’t have to worry about dinner for those first few weeks at home with baby. It was perfect for when I wanted a home-cooked meal but had no desire to cook or when I had last minute guests stop by to meet him… I was ready!

I wanted to do the same to prepare for Brooklyn’s arrival, but I learned a few lessons from how I did things with Camden. With Camden, Nick and I spent the Saturday before my due date cooking casseroles ALL day. My feet were throbbing, my back was in pain and my belly felt sooo heavy. I was exhausted, and almost resented the casseroles…. almost! Haha! So this time, I decided to prepare differently. I am not interested in the long-term shelf life of a frozen homemade casserole, because I KNOW it will be eaten in a month or two. So what I did was space the cooking out over a few weeks.

I started in early December when I wanted to make one of Nick’s favorite dishes: Baked Mostaccioli. I found a lasagna recipe online years ago that makes enough sauce to make two dishes. So, I made the baked mostaccioli AND made lasagna to freeze using one batch of homemade sauce. It’s an extremely easy recipe and I ALWAYS get compliments when I cook it. I also love that it gives me a reason to use our dutch oven, which was a wedding gift. Check out the recipes below…

World’s Best Lasagna

Adapted from AllRecipes.com, but I used ground turkey and turkey sausage (in place of beef) for a healthier twist.

The Dish: Make-Ahead Meals

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound turkey sausage
  • 
3/4 pound ground turkey
  • 
1/2 cup minced onion
  • 
2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
  • 2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
  • 
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 
1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 
12 lasagna noodles
  • 
16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Click HERE for the instructions.

Baked Mostaccioli

Via The Pioneer Woman

The Dish: Make-Ahead Meals

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 whole Large Onion, Diced
  • 1 pound Italian Sausage
  • 1 pound Ground Beef
  • 1 can (28 Oz. Size) Whole Tomatoes, With Juice
  • 2 cans (14.5 Ounce) Tomato Sauce Or Marinara Sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 16 ounces, weight Ziti Or Mostaciolli, Cooked Until Not Quite Al Dente
  • 1 tub (15 Oz. Size) Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
  • 1-1/2 pound Mozzarella Cheese, Grated
  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 whole Egg
  • Fresh Minced Parsley

Note: I like to use the leftover sauce from the lasagna for easier prep. So you don’t actually need all the sauce ingredients listed above if you’re making both dishes too!

Click HERE for the instructions.

The last thing I will add is that if you know you are going to eat a casserole soon, put it in the refrigerator to thaw at least 24 hours in advance. It makes it easier to cook. Also, even if you aren’t expecting a new baby soon, these make-ahead meals are great for a busy mama who only has time to cook on the weekend.

Which one of these recipes are you most excited to try?

Happy Cooking! And ENJOY!

Xx,
Vanessa

P.S. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, with my favorite chicken casserole recipes… yum!

Photos: Vanessa Lachey
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