Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cheese Tortellini Bake

I have been quite busy lately and only had the chance today to cook for my "Freezer Friends" group.  The swap is tomorrow, but my hubby will be standing in for me at the actual swap due to work obligations. I am not usually such a procrastinator, but I am happy to say it is all done and ready to go.  The upcoming week will be a busy one with three nights of parent-teacher conferences.  Then I am lucky enough to depart on a road trip over my spring break back to Colorado.  I am both eager and nervous about this trip, as I think it will be somewhat heart- breaking to return. I think I still miss it too much.  Hopefully you will see one more post form me before I leave.

Needless to say, I needed a quick make-ahead meal for the swap tomorrow.  My category this month was pasta so I chose to do a tortellini bake- pretty quick and easy comparatively speaking. Not much prep needed for this freezer meal.
Here are the ingredients listed for one family's serving:

  • 1/2 pound ground beef or turkey 
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 zesty Italian dressing
  • 1 can 10 oz. beef broth
  • 18 oz. cheese-filled tortellini or ravioli
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
If you plan to make freezer meals, as I did, you will need to multiply the recipe times the number of families you are cooking for.  Therefore, I multiplied this recipe times 8.  Six of these will go the families that I swap with, while the extra 2 are in my freezer for some later time when I need a quick meal. 

Of course shopping for ingredients can be a real saver if you are smart.  If you are a member of Sam's Club or Costco, it can be helpful to buy your ingredients in bulk. However, I find that availability of the ingredients you need can be somewhat hit or miss.  One place I like to shop is Aldi's with the exception of produce (never fresh).  For boxed and canned food, as well as cheese, I can find a REAL deal here when buying for this purpose.  I bought all of the above ingredients (x8) at Aldi's and spent $50.46 total.  At $50.46 divided by eight meals, this comes out to be $6.31 per meal.  Remember, that each meal is enough to feed six people for one night.  For Sam and I, this can easily feed us for two to three nights.  Quite a bargain if you ask me! 

First I browned all the meat in two big pans on the stove.  I added some salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and garlic.  

Next, I let the meat cool and measured out about a 1/2 pound of ground meat into eight Ziplock one-gallon bags.  The next part is the best part. Why?  Because it is SO simple!  Take each bag and pour in the beef broth, Italian dressing, diced tomatoes, jar of spaghetti sauce, and lastly, the tortellini.  

Once the bag is sealed, mix the ingredients together. Lay the bags flat. Here are a couple of the bags of tortellini bake after all ingredients were added and mixed. 

In a separate bag, I included the cooking instructions (also posted on Facebook on our group page) and 1 cup of shredded Mozzarella cheese.  I attached these to the larger bags by stapling them above the seal. 

The directions for reheating are as follows: Thaw. Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake at 375 for 50 minutes or until tortellini are tender. Remove foil. Stir. Sprinkle with cheese. Let stand for five minutes until cheese melts and serve. 

Of course, this does not have to be a make-ahead meal at all. You can simply brown the meat and pour all ingredients directly into a baking dish and cook according the above directions.  Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. This is a great idea. If I were the cook in the house, I would definitely be organizing a freezer swap! It's funny to hear you mention the Aldi's produce thing. I have friends here who swear by their produce and only shop there! I'm sure it's different by region. I just started shopping there and am amazed at the prices. Sam's on the other hand - well, I'm not too sure yet. :)