Monday, April 25, 2016

Layered Pizza Casserole

 Here we go with another freezer meal! I gotta be honest, I didn't think I would enjoy it.  But I gambled and made 4 pans. It's basically layered spaghetti with your favorite pizza toppings.

Results: Pretty darn delicious.  Justin even commented and said "this is a keeper".  The kids loved it because it was spaghetti. I was a fan because it was easy to make, easy to freeze and easy to serve.

Recommendation:  Don't skimp
on the cheese. Use mozzarella.  Add diced peppers and olives with pepperoni.  One recipe makes about 2.5 8x8 pans (original recipe says it can also be broken into 2 - 11x7 inch pans).   

Recipe adapted from: Taste of Home
2 # ground beef
1 diced onion (yellow or sweet)
2 -8 oz. cans of mushroom stems and pieces, drained
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons of Italian Seasoning
1 - 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 - 14 oz. jar pizza sauce
1 - 6 oz. can tomato paste
pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cups of DRY pasta (don't do spaghetti or fettuccini, use a rotini or something similar)
4 + cups mozzarella cheese (you can use cheddar or marble, but it tends to get a little more greasier)
1 - 3.5 oz. package of pepperoni
Additional pizza toppings:
1/2 cup of sliced {black} olives
1 green(or red) pepper, diced
  1. Grease 2 11x7 inch baking dishes (aluminum pans work fine too). Prepare pasta to al dente (too soft and the casserole will be mushy).  Rinse with cold water, set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F (disregard this (as well as any oven directions in this recipe) if you're making them entirely for freezer meals).
  3. Brown beef, onion, garlic and Italian seasoning until meat is brown. Drain the fat (if you want to! Sometimes I only drain half so I can keep the flavor of the grease, I know I'm bad!).
  4. Mix in the mushrooms, tomato sauce, tomato paste, pizza sauce, pinch of sugar and oregano.
  5. Mix the pasta and meat.
  6. This is where you get to layer. You can keep it simple and do only one layer of pizza toppings, or you can do what I did and make 2 (which makes a nice surprise as you serve it).
  7. This is what I did:
    1. Spread enough pasta mix on the bottom of the pans, then added enough mozzarella cheese to the top of the layer.  Added pepperoni, diced peppers and olives (just like you would see on your pizza).
    2. Repeated the layer.  This is why I say you may need more than 4 cups of cheese.
  8. BAKING instructions: If you're cooking fresh, go ahead and cover it with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake 10-15 longer (until heated through). It's important to cover it in the beginning so it protects the cheese from cooking too early.  *Follow instructions below for the 2nd pan*

If you're sending these babies straight to the freezer, get enough aluminum foil to cover the pan and then write these instructions on:

Layered Pizza Casserole:
Straight from freezer - Preheat heat to 450°F. Bake covered (with new foil) for first hour to hour and a half (or until middle is no longer hard).  Uncover; bake another 15 or until cheese is melted.
Thaw overnight and bake at 350° - covered for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 15 minutes.

I know they are a lot of words but you want to be successful when you're doing freezer meals.  Plus the instructions include trial and error done by yours truly! :) Learn from my mistakes.

Cover with press and seal first, and then add the foil from above to the top.  Be sure to replace both press & seal and foil with a new foil lid when you go to bake.

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