Make-ahead meals are a great way to simplify your life during a chaotic week. Italian-American cookbook author Lidia Bastianich, whose latest book is Lidia's Favorite Recipes, shares the best make-ahead dinners that freeze well and feed many.
Italian-American cookbook author Lidia Bastianich, whose latest book is Lidia's Favorite Recipes
, says a bubbling casserole of shell-shaped pasta stuffed with ricotta is something everyone in her family, from kids to grandmothers, loves. If you're going to make the dish ahead of time, place four to six shells in each container, ladle sauce over them and seal. They'll keep in the freezer for up to two months.
Get the recipe: Baked Stuffed Shells
A vegetarian main or substantial side, this tangle of braised Swiss chard and creamy cannellini beans tastes even better when it rests a bit and is reheated later. Plus, it calls for pantry staples -- dried beans, olive oil, tomato paste and canned plum tomatoes -- and just a few fresh ingredients. Bastianich serves it on its own or with grilled sausages.
Get the recipe: Braised Swiss Chard and Cannellini Beans
For this baked, layered dish, polenta stands in for pasta. And, like lasagna, it is marvelously versatile: Fillings can range from cheese to vegetables to meat -- or a combination of everything. This iteration uses a mushroom ragu, which Bastianich says is "a great vegetarian sauce, very complex and satisfying."
Get the recipe: Baked Polenta Layered with Mushroom Ragu
Even if you have a meatloaf recipe your family adores, Bastianich's is worth trying: It includes ricotta, which renders the loaf light, and cubes of mozzarella, which ooze and stretch when you serve the meatloaf hot.
Get the recipe: Meatloaf with Ricotta
Crispy-skinned chicken simmered in tomato sauce with mushrooms until the meat is fork-tender is a traditional Italian-American meal that's perfect for a Sunday supper or a reheated weeknight meal. You can cut up a whole chicken yourself or buy pieces (get all legs and thighs -- they're sure to stay moist). To freeze, make sure the meat is covered by the sauce. To reheat, let the container defrost in the refrigerator, and then transfer it to a pot and bring to a simmer.
Get the recipe: Chicken Cacciatore
Whether or not you're Italian, you've probably heard of pasta e fagioli (aka pasta fazool). Versions of the pasta-and-bean soup vary, but Bastianich's includes white kidney beans, potatoes, rosemary, bacon, plum tomatoes, and ditalini or elbow pasta. Cook and add the pasta just before serving.
Get the recipe: Pasta and Beans
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