Sunday, September 8, 2013

Make-Ahead Pasta alla Formiana

I'm on the hunt for reasonably healthy recipes to help DH's diet and keep my GI happy (thankfully are very complimentary concepts, those plus keeping DH's appetite happy are slightly different.) One recipe I came across was Picky Eater's Pasta alla Formiana, which she advertised as a healthier baked ziti. I like baked ziti, I like cheese but it violates #2 on my most wanted list so a healthier and potentially cheese free option was fantastic. Unfortunately, it was also vegetarian. DH likes meat, I'm indifferent. We had a 1/2lb of extra lean beef left over since TJ only stocks 1lb packages so I snuck it in.

Then we were assigned to bring a dinner for the family trip to the beach over the Labor Day weekend. Last year I made pasta lasagna which went alright, but the prep made it so I spent too much time with that rather than at the beach or seeing people I see maybe twice a year, so I needed something with less prep and could freeze well for the drive there (in the end it took two days to defrost in the fridge.)

For the "test" meal at home I did this:

I added the beef with the zucchini, used minced instead of crushed garlic, and chilled the dinner between the prep and the actual cooking.
Seasoned the zucchini and the pasta sauce more readily. 
I used a large casserole dish and that barely fit.

For beach/make ahead I...
Pre-diced the zucchini and put it in tupperware.
Pre-browned the beef and put it in a bag or similar. Freeze.
Washed but did not cut the tomatoes.
Used gluten free pasta (corn, not rice- we tried rice last year and no one liked the consistency)
Pre-made the tomato sauce but did not add the pasta.  Freeze.
Transport everything in an insulated bag or cooler.

So all told the meal looks like this:

Slice the tomatoes and dice the zucchini
Spray large casserole dish(s) and layer with a slight overlap the tomatoes (reserve 1/3 for topping)
In a pot, heat the pasta sauce. Once boiling add the pasta. Pour over tomatoes.
In a large pan, combine the zucchini and the beef (prebrowned, if not then then brown beef then add zucchini, use some oil first then). Season. Heat until zucchini are soft. Pour over pasta.
Layer remaining Tomatoes.
Bake at 450 for 35-40 minutes or so (mine took longer).
Sprinkle with cheese if desired (I did half and half for DH and I).

For as many adults as we were having, I would suggest a side of some sort. We had corn and had plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day (when doubled).

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