Friday, January 2, 2009

Freezer-to-Skillet Cheeseburger Pasta

Forgive the break - I think Celeste and I have both been so busy cooking old family favorites for the holidays, we haven't been coming up with much new for our girls! But I'm back today, with a make-ahead meal that I am just in love with!

My husband and I are huge fans of those Bertolli frozen dinners. You rip open a bag, plop it in the skillet, and 10 minutes later - yum! We're also huge fans of Top Chef, and when they did an episode dissecting the making of these Bertolli dinners... well, the wheels started turning. I created this freezer-to-skillet dinner for Abby and was thrilled with the ease of prep - and how tasty it was, even after being in the freezer for a month!

Freezer-to-Skillet Cheeseburger Pasta
4 servings

1/2 lb ground beef
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, lightly drained
1/2 box of your favorite pasta shapes
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt & pepper

In a skillet, brown the ground beef. Drain and cool. When cool, scatter all over a large plate covered in wax paper and set in the freezer.

Scatter the diced tomatoes all over a large plate covered in wax paper; freeze.

Prepare the pasta shapes according to box directions. Drain, cool. When cool, scatter over a large plate covered in wax paper; freeze.

In a skillet, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, until thickened and bubbly. Gradually whisk in the milk. Cook, stirring, until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese; add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon one or two tablespoonfuls of sauce into ice cube trays (you want the ice cubes to be about half full at most). Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for several hours, until completely firm.

When everything is well-frozen (the cheese sauce will take the longest to completely freeze), simply divide the frozen components between four bags.

When you are ready to cook, dump the contents of one bag into a skillet over medium heat. Cover for 1-2 minutes, then stir. Cover again for 1-2 minutes, and then stir. Continue to cook, stirring, until sauce cubes are completely melted and everything is heated through.

I loved having these on hand in the freezer for super-quick meals. I never tried heating them in the microwave, since it only took about 6 minutes in the skillet. I even added a bit of butternut squash baby food into the skillet on one of the reheats - and Abby wolfed it all down!


Want more freezer-friendly ideas? Check out the Ultimate Recipe Swap of freezer-friendly recipes at Life As Mom!


Breana said...

What What? I must have missed that episode of Top Chef.. Sadness for me! I love this idea - definitely will try it.

CountryMama@The Cozy Country Home said...

How cool!! What a wonderful idea!