Make Ahead Meals for Back to School

Wednesday, September 7, 2011 Submitted by Kerry

These are some of my favorite meals to make ahead and freeze for another time.  

Four Cheese, Spinach and Beef Stuffed Shells

stuffed shells

    •    1 pkg jumbo shells
    •    1 lb ground beef
    •    1 egg
    •    2 tbsp olive oil
    •    1 clove garlic, minced
    •    1/2 c onion, diced
    •    2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
    •    1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
    •    1/4 c Parmesan cheese
    •    1/4 c Romano cheese
    •    1 jar pasta sauce, divided
    •    1/2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
    •    8 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
    •    Salt, to taste
    •    Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook jumbo shells according to package directions, until al dente; drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef, onion, garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until beef is cooked through, drain. Stir in 1 cup of the pasta sauce, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese and spinach until blended well.

Stuff each shell with the mixture.


Allow the shells to cool completely.  Store them in a freezer bag.  



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour and spread about 1/4 cup of the pasta sauce on the bottom of the prepared baking dish into a very thin layer.

Place the frozen shells on top of the sauce.  Cover the stuffed shells evenly with the remaining pasta sauce.  Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, or until the shells are heated through and the sauce is bubbly.  

Remove from oven and sprinkle mozzarella cheese over all.

Return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes.

Garnish with fresh chopped basil.


Crock pot

Pour and spread about 1/4 cup of the pasta sauce on the bottom of a crock pot.

Place the frozen shells on top of the sauce.  Cover the stuffed shells evenly with the remaining pasta sauce.  Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for about 6 to 8 hours.

Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over all.  Cover and cook until the cheese is melted.  

Garnish with fresh chopped basil.



Macaroni and Cheese

Mac n cheese

    •    8 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked
    •    2 c milk (I use skim milk. Sometimes I will substitute 1 c of the milk for 1 c heavy cream)
    •    1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese PLUS 1/4 c for topping
    •    1/2 c shredded monterey jack cheese PLUS 1/4 c for topping
    •    1/2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
    •    3 tbsp butter PLUS 1/4 c melted butter for topping
    •    2 tbsp flour
    •    Optional:  1/4 c Italian-style dried bread crumbs

In a large sauce pan, melt 3 tbsp butter over low heat.Add flour and salt to the pan and mix well. Cook until bubbly, about 2 minutes.

Add milk gradually, until well-blended.

Increase heat to medium and cook until it comes to a boil and thickens, stirring constantly.

Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add 1/2 c cheddar, 1/2 c monterey jack and 1/2 c mozzarella and stir until melted.

Stir in the cooked macaroni.


Allow it to completely cool.  Pour into a freezer bag and place the bag inside a 1 1/2 qt casserole dish.  This allows the macaroni to freeze in the shape of the casserole dish.  Once the macaroni and cheese is frozen, remove the casserole dish from the freezer.  



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the frozen macaroni and cheese in a 1 1/2 qt greased casserole dish.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes.  Sprinkle with 1/4 c cheddar and 1/4 c monterey jack.  Sprinkle optional bread crumbs evenly over all. Melt 1/4 c butter and drizzle evenly on top of bread crumb.

Bake for and additional 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top.



Meatballs for Spaghetti or Sandwiches



    •    1 lb ground beef (or 1/2 lb ground beef and 1/2 lb ground pork)
    •    1 egg, beaten
    •    1/4 c Italian style bread crumbs
    •    2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
    •    1/4 c fresh or 1/2 tbsp dried parsley
    •    1 clove garlic, minced
    •    Salt, to taste
    •    2 tbsp olive oil


In a large bowl, mix together beef and egg until well-blended. Add in bread crumbs, Parmesan, parsley and salt; mix well.  Form meatballs.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, stirring constantly for 1 minute.

Add the meatballs to the skillet, cooking on all sides until cooked through; about 15 minutes.


Allow the meatballs to cool completely.  Store in a freezer bag.  


Pour your favorite spaghetti sauce in a large pan.  Add the frozen meatballs.  Simmer for 1 hour, or until the meatballs are warmed through.

Serve with spaghetti or in sandwiches.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over all.


Ricotta-Parmesan Ravioli



Ravioli Filling - I use half and freeze the other half
    •    2 c ricotta cheese
    •    1 c Parmesan cheese
    •    3 large eggs
    •    1/2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
    •    1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
    •    Sea salt, to taste
    •    2 c flour
    •    1 tsp salt
    •    1 egg
    •    1/2 c milk or water (I use milk)

Marinara Sauce, or your favorite store-bought
    •    3 tbsp olive oil
    •    1 large onion, chopped
    •    4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
    •    1 tbsp dried basil
    •    2 tsp dried oregano
    •    1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    •    1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
    •    1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, undrained
    •    1/2 c dry red wine
    •    2 tsp sugar
    •    Sea salt, to taste (don't be shy!)
    •    Ground black pepper, to taste


Make the ravioli filling.  Combine all filling ingredients, ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, mozzarella, parsley and sea salt; Set aside.

Make the dough. Combine all dough ingredients, flour, salt, egg and milk. Knead dough over lightly floured surface.  Roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness.  Using a round cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut circles out of the dough.

Assemble the ravioli. Place about 1 tbsp of filling in the middle of a circle and wet the edges of the dough with water. Place another circle on top and push down edges together. Seal with tines of a fork.  Repeat until there are no circles remaining.

Place ravioli in salted boiling water and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring gently to avoid breaking.

Carefully remove the ravioli with a slotted spoon.


Allow the ravioli to cool completely.  Store in a freezer bag.  


Make marinara sauce (or simply pour your favorite store-bought into a large pan).  In a large dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion, garlic, dried pepper flakes, basil and oregano; saute about 4 minutes.  Add tomato paste, stir 2 minutes.  Add whole tomatoes and cut up with a fork as adding to the pot.  Pour in wine.  Season with salt, pepper and sugar.  Simmer uncovered at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Add water if a thinner sauce is desired (I added about 1 1/2 c of water).  Strain the sauce if you are not a fan of chunks.  

Place the ravioli in the marinara sauce and simmer for 1 hour.  

Pour into serving dishes.  Top with cheese.  Garnish with fresh parsley.  

Serve and enjoy!


Pulled BBQ Chicken

Pulled BBQ

    •    2 to 3 lbs boneless pork ribs
    •    BBQ sauce, 18 oz of your favorite recipe or store-bought
    •    14 oz beef broth
    •    Sea salt and pepper, to taste
    •    Optional: Cayenne pepper, to taste


Add beef broth in the crock pot.

Place the pork in the crock pot. Season pork with salt and pepper and pour BBQ sauce over top.

Cover and cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours.

Remove pork from crock pot and place in a bowl. Pull pork and add some juices left in crock pot or additional BBQ sauce to taste.


Allow the pork to cool completely.  Store in a freezer bag.  


Stove top

Place the pulled pork in a pan and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally until warmed through.  Add more BBQ sauce if it is a little dry.


Cook at 30% power in 2-minute increments, stirring in between.  Repeat until warmed through.  

Serve on toasted hamburger buns and enjoy!



Celeste is a wife to her best friend, mother to their beautiful daughter and a medical transcriptionist.  She is a self-taught cook who became a passionate foodie in the process.  Her hope is that others will follow along on her journey at , have the desire to start cooking more, gain the confidence to try new things, quit dining out so much and remember how important and special it is to sit around the dinner table together as a family.  Oh yeah... and eat good food, too!


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