As my baby's due date approaches, I've become inundated with advice for the days and weeks immediately following the birth. One I come across time and time again is to make and freeze some meals for Phil and I to enjoy while we're adjusting to life with a newborn. I've never been one to do this normally (cook meals ahead of time and store them in the freezer) except for vegetable stock (which definitely isn't a meal) but I think it will come in really handy for us. I looked up a few freezer-friendly dinner recipes and tweaked them a little. And today was my cooking day since the rain is relentless and certainly doesn't make it feel much like Memorial Day weekend!
The first recipe actually makes a double batch (I decided to freeze both, but you could always cook these before dinner - serve one that night and freeze one for later). Here's my Garden Baked Penne:
Garden Baked Penne
Prep Time: 35 mins
Cook Time: up to 2 hours
Keywords: bake simmer saute entree gluten-free wheat free vegetarian soy-free Italian
Ingredients (serves 8)
- 1 pound brown rice penne
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
- 2 small zucchini, grated
- 1 cup goat or buffalo Mozzarella, broken into small chunks
- ground black pepper to taste
This recipe makes 2 separate batches. If you're serving one for dinner tonight, preheat the oven to 375F. If not, start at the next step.
Line a baking or casserole dish with foil with excess folded over the sides.
Cook the pasta according to package instructions, draining 1-2 minutes before completely cooked.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat and add the onion and red pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes, then add the garlic, herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Then pour in the crushed tomatoes and water, along with a teaspoon of sea salt. Simmer for 20 minutes uncovered.
Add the sauce to the cooked pasta, along with the spinach, pecorino, zucchini, and a pinch more black pepper. Stir to combine.
Divide between the two dishes and top with the mozzarella.
IF COOKING NOW: bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is lightly golden.
IF FREEZING NOW: leave to cool completely, then cover with foil and freeze for up to 3 months. (Once the dish is frozen after 24 hours, you can remove the foil wrapped meal from the baking dish to be used in the meantime. Place the foil wrapped meal back in the freezer by itself). To cook, transfer the covered meal back into the original pan you used and place directly in a 375F oven for 90 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes until golden.
That's plenty of food for us as we get into the rhythm of parenthood!