Friday, May 15, 2009

Freezer Cooking - Baked Spaghetti

For at least a year, I've eyed various posts, blogs, and sites regarding Once A Month Cooking. I love the concept, but as mentioned previously, I don't actually have that big of a recipe rotation that I'd want to eat over and over. I do have a number of recipes that I prepare in quantity, though - one of my favorites is Baked Spaghetti.
The original recipe came from Tammy's Recipes. I'm a natural born tweaker, though. For one, I have found that this recipe divides into multiple pans that are a much better size for our small family. I prefer angel hair pasta because it cooks so much faster. We also prefer ricotta cheese over cottage cheese - I've even made my own ricotta!

Usually, I have way too much pasta. This time, I tried 12 oz angel hair, and doubled everything else. I then spread it among two 8x8 pans and one 8" round deep dish pan (it was in the oven already when I took the picture). I'd say I didn't have enough pasta. Perhaps I usually stuff it into two pans? I'm not sure.
I would note that you definitely don't want to skimp on butter - and you want to make sure it melts before adding the cheese. Stirring sticky cheese into sticky pasta is difficult at best. The ricotta seems especially difficult to mix in and I wonder if it would help to let it come to room temperature before adding it. I also seemed to have extra mozzarella in with the pasta, and I'm sure I actually used less. While I believe it is difficult to hit the range of "too much cheese", it is possible.

Finally, I had about 1 2/3 cup of meat sauce left over, which I froze. I could have added it to the pans, but have you seen a two-year-old after eating spaghetti - especially when it has too much sauce?

To freeze the extra, I put heavy duty foil into my pans first, then filled them. I popped them into the freezer (uncovered), and then after a day or so, I pull the foil up over the casserole and pop the spaghetti-cicle out of the pan and into a gallon freezer ziplock bag. I write something cryptic on it like 3 CHZ BK SPAG and the date, and it goes back into the freezer.

Since I work two mornings a week proofreading our local paper, I love to use this sort of meal on those days. In theory, I ought to pull one out the night before and put it in the refrigerator to thaw. In reality, things do not thaw quickly in the fridge for me. So, in the morning before I leave, I put the frozen casserole in the oven and set it to come on around 10 AM at 350 degrees, with the theory that it will be hot and ready to eat at about noon. It usually works. :>)

This dish goes well with Tammy's Italian Cheese Bread if you have time. If you don't, here's a very good substitute:

Figure 1-2 pieces of bread for each person and I usually tack on an extra or two just in case. I lay them on a piece of foil* and then butter the top side. I then add some, most, or all of the following: oregano, parsley, grated green can Parmesan cheese, garlic powder (or better yet, Garlic Bread Sprinkle), shredded or sliced mozzarella, or shredded Parmesan. Broil until cheese melts and bread toasts to desired level of crispiness. (My dad prefers his burned. My mom would put a solid 1/2" of sesame seeds on hers if I kept them in the house.) I like to take them out before they're quite done and then run them through the toaster for a bit. It toasts up the back side that is otherwise too soft in my mind. Yum! This is also a good way to use leftover hamburger and/or hot dog buns - just use them instead of bread. If you want to get really fancy, use a loaf of french bread and split it or slice it. Either way is delicious.

* I don't like to wash pans - nor do I even apparently like to pull them out of the cabinet to lay a piece of foil on. But, I will warn you that two rows of three pieces of bread are about as big as you want to go. How do I know this? I dumped two rows of four pieces of bread on the door of my oven. Goose said "mess!" She was right.


Jessie Weaver said...

Have you seen the Once a Month Mom site? It is so helpful on menus, instructions, grocery lists for once-a-month-cooking--and you can just pick and choose a few recipes from there if that's what you want.

Meredith from Like Merchant Ships and I did their April Menu back in May and I have LOVED having the food on hand.


Lenetta said...

Jessie, I have clicked around that site a bit - and I'm sure I found the link from Meredith. I'm trying to build up my repertoire of recipes that we love - seems we try a lot of things and just think they're "eh". But I'm picky like that! :>) I'm praying for a bigger family some day, and so I'm working on honing my OAMC and freezer cooking skills now in preparation! Thanks for stopping by -