Yumm! Make-Ahead Pasta Bakes and Casseroles

10 reasons why stocking your freezer with hearty meals is a good idea.
Pasta Bakes and Casseroles

Wouldn't it be great to come home and just pop a healthy, homemade casserole in the oven for dinner? Fill it with lots of vegetables and you don't even need side dishes. As well as being easy, home-made and delicious, there's one more great benefit to these one-dish meals: only one pan to clean up!

Sit back and relax while your meal heats or, if you're really motivated, steal a few minutes on the treadmill. Need more convincing? Here are 10 reasons to love casseroles and pasta bakes, plus our favorite recipes to get your started.

1. They're easy time savers: Just come home, reheat and eat.

2. You can cut back on prep time by making variations while you're in the kitchen. Since you're cooking noodles anyway, make a traditional lasagna and then a vegetable one, too. Save even more time by using no-cook noodles.

3. Portion control is a breeze. Simply freeze them in the portion sizes you'll need later.

4. They're a great way to get in a nutritionally balanced meal. Mix and match seasonal veggies with the protein option of your choice.

5. Recipes double and even triple well (assuming you've got room in the oven). Cook your casseroles and lasagnas on aluminum foil in a baking dish. Take out of the oven, let them cool, cover with foil and freeze. Once they're frozen, you can easily lift them out of the dish, wrap them up tightly and not have all your baking dishes tied up in the freezer.

6. Casserole recipes are often quite basic, and substitutions are easy. No turkey on hand? Try chicken. No ham? Use some sliced, low-fat sausage.

7. It's hard to mess them up. Any number of sauces and seasoning can be combined for great flavor. But make sure not to overcook them; casseroles can dry out quickly.

8. Saucy dishes keep reheated foods nice and moist, something to consider when choosing freezer-bound recipes.

9. Reheating is simple: Place the frozen item in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 325°F for another 20 to 30 minutes. Make sure to keep it covered. If the item is already thawed, follow the cooking directions for the uncooked regular recipe but add 5 to 10 minutes to the cooking time to ensure it warms all the way through.

10. Most casseroles and lasagnas reheat well in the microwave, too.

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