I wrote a make-ahead casserole post last year and you guys adored it. I’m happy to report, I’m doing it again! Make-ahead meals (especially baked casseroles) are terrific because you can completely assemble them in advance and bake them just before serving. They’re the ultimate comfort food as they come bubbling hot and delicious straight from the oven to the table to the delight of family and friends. I particularly like casseroles this time of year because I’m really busy (with school stuff, work, the impending holidays) and, when you create a ready-to-bake casserole in advance, it becomes a true kitchen buddy and life-saver at the end of a long day (when, I’ll be honest, I just want a cocktail and a good meal). I hope these three casseroles help you sail through the next week with ease!
Pesto Stuffed Lasagne
No-boil lasagna noodles shave at least 20 minutes off your prep time because you don’t have to wait for water to boil or pasta to cook. Plus, they soak up the pesto flavor as they bake in the oven.
15 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup prepared pesto sauce, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese (16 ounces)
8-ounce package no-boil lasagna noodles (12 pieces)
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Combine ricotta, 1/2 cup of the pesto and egg. Mix well and set aside.
Spread 1/4 cup of the remaining pesto all over the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Top with 3 lasagna noodles (the noodles don’t need to touch each other or the sides of the pan because they expand when baked). Top noodles with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture and spread mixture out evenly over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat these steps 2 more times (3 noodles, 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, 1 cup mozzarella). End with the last three noodles on top. Top with remaining 1/4 cup of pesto and mozzarella cheese.
Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 more minutes, until hot and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.
Now that we’re submerged in hectic fall schedules, we need fast weeknight meals. And by fast I mean healthy and fast, not frozen “fat and salt”. I love store-bought pizza crusts (sold next to the refrigerated biscuits) because you can quickly whip up a gourmet pizza any night of the week. I went a tad fancy with these pizzas because I wanted you to see how versatile the crusts are. You can pile on colorful veggies and protein (like chicken, seafood, beans and cheese) and make a complete meal. Pizza is a great family-friendly meal, and the leftovers make a terrific leftovers for your brown bag lunch. Another bonus? These can all be made ahead – assemble the pizza up to 24 hours in advance and bake just before serving.
Tuscan Pizza With White Beans, Kale and Yellow Squash
11-ounce can refrigerated thin crust pizza dough
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch kale, chopped (about 6 cups)
1 tablespoon water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/8-inch thick rounds
15-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2/3 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
Unroll crust onto prepared pan. Bake 5 minutes. Remove crust from oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add kale and water cook 3-5 minutes, until kale wilts. Arrange kale on crust, to within 1 inch of the edges. Season kale with salt and pepper. Top kale with white beans and then thyme. Sprinkle mozzarella over kale, beans and thyme. Arrange squash over mozzarella and top with parmesan cheese. Bake 8-10 more minutes, until crust is golden brown and cheese melts.