Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Make-Ahead Meal: Baked Rotini Pasta w/ Meat Sauce!

Funny story...

This morning I made a big batch of Baked Rotini Pasta w/ Meat Sauce, a pre-'baked' and freezer-friendly recipe, to take to my friend who is having her 5th child over the weekend.  I figured she could pop the pan in the oven and feed her family tonight (so she didn't have to worry about making dinner), or throw it in the freezer and then heat it up sometime over the next week or two.  I love making Italian dishes for make-ahead meals; they are so comforting and filling, heat up great, and the leftovers store and re-heat well too!  Plus, who doesn't like pasta?!

When the pasta dish was finished, I stuck it in the fridge since my plan was to head over to my friend's house around 1pm with the pre-made meal and a batch of brownies (yum!).  But at 11:30am my phone rings... she's in labor and on the way to the hospital!  So I wrapped up the pan with some foil and stuck it in the freezer... it looks like dinner will have to wait until she is home from the hospital with her little one.  I hope the brownies make it that long.... ;)

This pasta dish is very easy to make and it only calls for a few ingredients.  Every time I make it, it gets rave reviews!!

Baked Rotini Pasta with Meat Sauce

  • 1 lb. ground beef (you can use 93/7 or 80/20 or even ground turkey)
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. crushed garlic
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 (28 oz.) jar pasta sauce
  • 1 box (13.25 oz.) whole wheat rotini pasta (any shape pasta will work)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. fresh basil, chopped

Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  When pan is warm, add 1 tsp. crushed garlic and the ground beef.  Cook until ground beef is browned.  Place a few paper towels on a large plate.  When meat is cooked thoroughly, drain oil from the pan and then pour the ground beef on top of paper towels (the paper towels will soak up the excess oil).

Fill a large pot with enough water to boil the pasta.  Add a few drops of olive oil and a pinch of salt to the water.  Bring the water to a boil over high heat.  Once water is boiling, add the pasta.  Cook for 10 min., stirring occasionally.

While pasta is cooking, spray a 9x9 inch baking pan (I bought a 9x9 tin pan so my friend could just throw the pan away when she was done) with cooking spray.  Add a thin layer of pasta sauce to coat the bottom of the pan.

When the pasta is done cooking, drain off water (do not rinse) and pour into a large bowl.  Add the jar of pasta sauce (reserving enough for a drizzle over the top) and cooked ground beef.  Stir until pasta and meat are coated in the pasta sauce. 

Spread half of the meat and pasta mixture evenly in the pan, then top with 1 cup shredded cheese.  Spread the second half of the mixture evenly over the shredded cheese layer.  Top the mixture with the last of the pasta sauce, 1 cup shredded cheese, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and the chopped basil.

Here's where this dish can become a Make-Ahead Meal....

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and 1) bake now... OR... let the pasta cool, cover the pan with aluminum foil then 2) put it in the fridge or 3) put it in the freezer.

Heating Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake thawed pasta for 20-30 min. or until hot in the center.  Bake frozen pasta for 45-60 min. or until hot in the center.

Nothing is better than being able to pull a meal out of the freezer, pop it in the oven, and have a delicious dinner ready with no effort!  This dish would also be great for a large dinner party or a pot luck. :)

Update:  It is now 8pm and my friend is still in labor.  Looking forward to taking her and the family some pre-made comfort food tomorrow... and of course, meeting the newest member of their family!

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