Baked Ziti: This recipe is like lasagna without all of the work!
We love a good freezer meal when life is coming at us hard and fast. Doubling (or tripling) a freezer-friendly dish like this baked ziti is a great timesaver (and a lifesaver!)
We’ve left out the ricotta cheese that you’d normally find in lasagna or other baked ziti recipes to keep it budget-friendly but if you’d like, feel free to add 1 cup to each pan. Just add half the pasta, dot it with the ricotta then top it with the rest of the pasta.
Don’t let the longer prep time for this recipe scare you off – this freezer-friendly baked ziti recipe is actually for TWO meals!
How to Freeze a Casserole or One-Dish Meal
In a glass baking dish
- Method 1: Directly in the dish – Grease the dish (glass or metal) and place food directly into the dish. Cover with a layer of foil and place inside a large plastic zip-top bag or use a double layer of foil. Label and freeze.
- Method 2: In a foil-lined dish – Line the dish (glass or metal) with foil so that enough foil hangs over each end that you can fold the ends inward and they will cover the entire dish (like you’re wrapping a gift). Place food inside the dish then gently fold the foil ends over the food and crimp the edges to seal. Place the dish in the freezer and freeze until solid. When frozen solid, place your hand on top of the covered food and flip it over so the whole foil-wrapped block falls out into your hand or on the counter. Place this inside a large plastic zip-top bag, label, seal and return to the freezer. When you’re ready to bake, place the frozen foil block back into the pan you used to freeze it in and thaw/bake according to directions.
In a disposable foil pan
- Grease a disposable foil pan and place food directly into the dish. Cover with a layer of foil and place inside a large plastic zip-top bag or use a double layer of foil. Label and freeze.
Pro Tip: Write the name of the dish, the date and any cooking directions (i.e. ‘Thaw 24 hours, Bake covered @ 350°F for XX minutes”, etc.) on the foil you use to cover the dish so you know exactly what it is and how to prepare it.
How to Bake a Frozen Casserole or One-Dish Meal
If you have the time, remove the frozen pan from the freezer and allow it to thaw in the fridge for 24-36 hours before baking. This is will cut your baking time in half. However, if you forget or need a meal like, right now, then just remove it from the freezer and let it stand at room temperature while the oven heats up then bake, covered, for 60 minutes or until hot and bubbly all the way through. Regardless of which way you do it, remove the foil during the last 15 minutes of baking to brown and crisp the cheese.
- 1 lb. bulk Italian turkey or pork sausage (may substitute ground beef)
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 12 oz. gluten-free ziti pasta (may substitute penne pasta)
- 1 24 ounce jar pasta sauce (without added sugar, if possible)
- 2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
- 12 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 2 8x8-inch (or 9x9-inch) baking dishes and set aside.
- Add bulk sausage to a skillet or saute pan over medium high heat. Using a spatula, break up the meat so it cooks quickly and evenly. Add diced onion and garlic and cook until meat is no longer pink and onions are softened.
- Transfer sausage and onion mixture to a paper towel lined plate using a slotted spoon or spatula.
- While sausage is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add pasta and cook 9-11 minutes or until al dente (pasta should be slightly firm or it will become mushy when baked or frozen then baked). Drain pasta and set aside.
- Add sausage, Italian seasoning and pasta sauce to pot you boiled the pasta in. Place over medium high heat and bring to a simmer. Stir and cook 5-7 minutes or until hot.
- Add pasta to sauce mixture.
- Add all but 1 cup of shredded cheese to the pasta and stir gently.
- Divide pasta mixture between the 2 baking dishes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
- Place pan in oven, uncovered, and bake for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Cover remaining dish with foil, refrigerate until cold then transfer to the the freezer.