I never really got into freezing meals. I’m not sure why. Strange way to start a post about freezer-friendly meals, eh? Stick with me. I’m going somewhere, I promise! I guess I never really grew up in a house where meals were prepared in advance and frozen. I was raised by a working mother who was also a single parent so I bet it would have been a great thing for her. And the more I think about it, it seems crazy to me to not have been taking advantage of double batch cooking and freezing given my own lifestyle.
I do a lot of cooking both for my family and for work purposes so there’s always freshly prepared food in the house, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes find myself scrambling for a dinner idea at 5:00 because the day has gotten away from me. All parents go though this and whether you work inside the home or out, I think we can all agree, there is never enough time in the day. I’m a work-at-home-mom with two boys (ages 22 months and 4 years) and my life seems to get crazier every day. I know you can relate, which is exactly why I find myself searching for ways to gain extra time in my day. Freezing meals has definitely become one of my new favorite time savers.
Making a double batch of something that freezes and reheats beautifully is really a game changer. No more panicking if i’m running late. Those take-out menus stay in the drawer. These days if I’m frantic about what to make for dinner, I quickly remember to check my freezer to see what’s stashed and begging to be eaten. It literally feels like Christmas morning when I open the foil and see that my hard work has paid off in spades.
The flavor of these shells are creamy and delicious and are a veggie filled take on the classic stuffed shells recipe thanks to the addition of spinach and artichoke. Think: spinach and artichoke dip stuffed into pasta shells—OMG! Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Shells are hearty and well balanced vegetarian fare. Pair this dish with a wonderful side salad and you have yourself one fantastic make-ahead, freezer friendly meal.
Freezer Friendly Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Shells
Makes 2 batches of stuffed shells (enough for 8 people or two dinners for 4 people if freezing one batch)
1 box large pasta shells
1 large clove garlic
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/4 cup parmigiano cheese, plus extra for topping
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and throughly squeezed dry
1 (15 ounce) can of artichokes packed in water, drained
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
Article continues below...
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Cook shells according to packaged directions for al dente. Drain and place onto a paper towel to dry while you make the filling.
3. Place garlic into the bowl of a food processor and process until finely minced. Add ricotta, parmigiano cheese, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg and process until mixture is well blended, about 30 seconds. Add in well drained spinach and drained artichokes and pulse mixture until spinach and artichokes are broken down but not pureed, about 20-25 pulses, total.
4. Spread approximately 1/3 cup of crushed tomatoes onto the bottoms of two 9×9 freezer friendly, oven safe, baking dishes (I actually used 10-inch pie plates and as able to fit 16 shells in each). Note: use a bigger cooking vessel if you need one large batch and aren’t planning on freezing any for a later date—a 9×13-inch pan should work perfectly.To Freeze: Cover the batch you plan to freeze tightly with a layer or wax paper, then plastic wrap and finally a layer of heavy duty foil ( i like extra freezer burn insurance so i triple up!). Label the dish with a piece of making tape and marker and don’t forget to include the date! This particular dish can be frozen for up to one month. Don’t forget to remove the waxed paper and plastic wrap and reseal wit foil before placing into preheated oven. If baking shells from a frozen state, allow 60 minutes total cooking time.
Christina Stanley-Salerno is a mama, recipe developer, food stylist, photographer and blogger atTakeBackYourTable.com. She loves cooking for and with her family. Life is hectic, but Christina is passionate about mealtime because she believes that family meals are the glue that holds everyone together. Creating simple, quick and healthy meals is her specialty and her trick to keeping the family meal a reality, even on busy weeknights.
Follow her on Twitter @TakeBackTables