MAKE AHEAD LASAGNA
This is my favourite method of making lasagna. It's great for traveling. I just make it the night before we leave and stick it in the refrigerator. When we get to where we are stopping for the night, I just pop it in the oven. After about an hour, we have a nice hot meal.
Cook and crumble 1 pound lean sausage or ground beef; drain well and set aside. Combine 2 eggs, 2 cups ricotta cheese (or large curd cottage cheese), and 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning; set aside. Combine 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste and 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes; set aside. Shred 1 pound mozzarella cheese; set aside. Grease a 13X9X2 inch pan or casserole dish that will hold 3.5 litres (use glass or silicone as the acid in the tomatoes can discolour metal pans and may cause the sauce to taste metallic). Pour enough of the sauce in the bottom of the pan to cover the bottom. Place in order:
1 layer uncooked regular lasagna noodles (you will use about 8 oz or so of noodles for the whole recipe... you can break the dry noodles to fit into the pan)
1/2 of the ricotta cheese mixture
1/2 of the shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 of the meat
enough of the tomato sauce to cover
Repeat the layers in the same order one more time. Top with 1 layer of the uncooked noodles, the remaining meat and sauce to cover. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over the top. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and chill for at least 8 hours. Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake, uncovered, for 50 to 60 minutes.
> Reheat leftover lasagna in 2 cup portions at 350F for 20 minutes.
> This can also be made in 2 loaf pans for small toaster ovens. When using loaf pans, double the amount of sauce made and divide between the two pans.
13X9X2" pan = 3.5 L
9X5X3" pan = 2 L
8X4X3" pan = 1.5 L
MAKE AHEAD SAUSAGE & TORTELLINI CASSEROLE
This makes 8 servings. I buy refrigerated tortellini from Sam's Club and keep it in the freezer. If you use the refrigerated kind, make sure you freeze it for a few days as this recipe requires it to be FROZEN.
Either make 3 cups of marinara sauce or use a jarred sauce; set aside. Shred 10 oz (2 1/2 cups) mozzarella cheese. Place 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella in an airtight container and place in refrigerator. Set aside the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella. Remove casings from 1 1/4 pounds fresh Italian sausage. Slice and cook in a 10" skillet until no longer pink. Drain and set aside. Spread 1 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of an ungreased 3.5 litre casserole or 13X9X2" pan. In the pan, arrange a single layer of frozen tortellini (from a 2 pound bag of cheese tortellini) over the sauce. Evenly pour another 1 cup of sauce over the tortellini. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of the sausage over the sauce and then sprinkle the 1 cup mozzarella over the meat. Repeat the layers with the remaining tortellini, sauce and sausage. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate at least 8 hours but no longer than 24 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. Bake , uncovered, for 45 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with the reserved 1 1/2 cups mozzarella and 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
MAKE AHEAD MANICOTTI
This makes about 6 servings. This is the easiest way I have found to make manicotti. I can never seem to fill the cooked tubes without tearing them into pieces. But with the uncooked noodles, I just put the filling into a pastry bag and pipe it into the hard shells. Please note that this takes a total of 4 1/2 cups marinara sauce. you can also use the big seashell shaped pasta but you may need more sauce to cover them completely.
Remove casings from 1 pound fresh Italian sausage; cook, breaking the meat up into pieces, until done; drain and set aside. Stir together 1 (15 oz) container Ricotta cheese and 2 eggs until blended. Stir the sausage into the cheese mixture with 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 1/2 tablespoon Splenda granular (or sugar), 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stuff into 12 uncooked manicotti shells. A pastry bag with a large tip makes this very easy, just pipe filling in from both ends of the shell. You can also put the filling into a plastic bag, snip one of the bottom corners off and pipe it in (be careful that you don't cut too big of a hole in the bag). Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a lightly greased 11X7X2" baking dish. Arrange the stuffed shells in a single layer over the sauce. Pour 3 1/2 cups marinara sauce over the shells, covering shells completely. Cover dish with foil and chill at least 8 hours. Bake, uncovered, at 400F for 40 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle evenly with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and bake 15 minutes more.
This is another dish that is made ahead. It's a nice light meal that is great for the summer. You can make it the same day but it does taste much better when made the day before. Makes 4 servings.
Cook 1 pound rotini or shell shaped pasta according to directions on the package. Drain and return to pot; set aside. In a medium-sized skillet, heat 1/4 cup Italian style salad dressing. Add 1/4 cup finely minced onion and 2 teaspoon minced garlic; saute until tender. Add 2 pounds small, uncooked peeled-&-deveined shrimp, cooking just until pink. Add to the hot pasta. In the same skillet, heat 3 cups marinara sauce, 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to boiling over medium high heat; reduce heat, simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. Pour sauce over pasta and shrimp mixture. Add 1/4 cup fresh minced parsley. Toss until pasta is well-coated with sauced. Serve at room temperature with grated Parmesan cheese.
Our favourite marinara sauce. This recipe can easily be doubled. It can be thinned down a bit with water of broth. Makes 3 cups.
In a 2 quart saucepan, over medium heat, in 2 tablespoons olive oil, cook 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1 small chopped onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 (14.5 oz) can undrained diced tomatoes, 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste, 2 teaspoons dried basil and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Reduce heat to low, cover, cook 20 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.
This is our favourite meatloaf recipe. I use 90/10% lean ground beef. Processing the oatmeal into a finer flour makes it disappear into the meatloaf. Cooking it on a broiler pan allows the few juices to drip out and the loaf stays firm and cooks better . I came up with this recipe after David told me he didn't like meatloaf. He likes this meatloaf.
Makes 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves
Combine 2 lb lean ground beef, 1 cup oat flour, 1 finely chopped medium onion (about 1/2 cup), 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup milk, 2 lightly beaten eggs, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands. Shape into either 1 large loaf or 2 smaller loaves (7 1/2" X 4"). Place on a lightly greased rack of a broiler pan. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes.
COOK'S NOTE: Make OAT FLOUR by processing uncooked quick-cooking or old-fashioned oatmeal in a food processor fitted with a knife blade until the consistency of coarse meal.
KING ARTHUR'S "THE EASIEST BROWNIES YOU'LL EVER BAKE"
MAKES A 9" SQUARE PAN
"This recipe makes chewy, fudgy, dense brownies which are sure to please any chocolate lover. And you will never guess that it is made with whole wheat flour." www.kingarthurflour.com
Preheat oven to 350*F. In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup whole wheat flour (honestly, you'll never guess that this is made with whole wheat flour), 2 cups granular sweetener (I use 1 cup Splenda granular plus 1 cup sugar but the recipe originally called for sugar), 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir in 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter and 1/4 cup vegetable oil, then beat in 3/4 cup (3 large) eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 9" square pan. Bake brownies for 30 minutes or until they appear just about done; they may have pulled away from the edges of the pan slightly. You'll need to adapt the length of baking time to your own oven and preferences. Start with 350°F for half an hour and see if the brownies are too fudgy or too dry, then work from there. Less time = fudgy brownies, more time = drier brownies.
I like brownies very fudgy and David likes them more "cake-like". Baked as specified in the recipe makes us both happy. I don't often frost these, they just don't last long enough. On the rare times they do get frosted (in other words, I've made them when I was home by myself), I use a pre-made tub of shelf stable frosting from the grocery store. Usually the sugar free variety since we watch our sugar intake. Pillsbury Brand Creamy Supreme Sugar Free Chocolate fudge frosting (sweetened with Splenda) is our favourite. I spread it on while the brownies are pretty warm but not hot. By spreading it on while it's still pretty warm means I can use a smaller amount so that it is more like a thin glaze than a thick layer of frosting.