Freezer Baked Ziti: A great freezer casserole of ziti pasta with meat sauce and lots of cheese. A great winter meal that freezes perfectly!
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Freezi Ziti

This is the second post in a five part series called Expecting Nugget! I took the liberty to insanely stock our freezer with lots of good eats in preparation for our first baby. I figured I would share them all because everybody needs good freezer meals!

I have a standard meat and/or mushroom lasagna recipe that I ship off to friends and family who might need a few easy meals. Maybe it’s a new baby or just a major life event, but they always get a big container of my lasagna. I usually use some version of this lasagna recipe when I make it.

The nice thing about the lasagna is that it’s great the day you get it, but if the person is set on meals, they can also freeze it for months and then just toss it in the oven when needed.

Rather than make the same lasagna for me and Betsy, I decided to do a twist on it by baking it into a ziti. Making ziti like this is actually way easier than making a lasagna because you just toss everything together. No need for fancy layers!

This recipe makes enough for three containers of ziti and each of those will probably serve four people. In other words, it’s a lot of good food, but if you have freezer space then it’s a no brainer!

Yield
3 8x8 dishes
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Yum

Freezer Baked Ziti

The best method and recipe I know for freezing baked ziti. Make a lot or make even more. It keeps perfectly and reheats beautifully.

Ingredients

1 1/2 - 2 pounds ground beef
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 large onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 28-oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated
8 oz. provolone cheese, grated
24 oz. cottage cheese
2 large eggs
1 lemon, zest only
2 pounds ziti pasta
Salt and pepper
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Directions

1) For cheese mixes, combine cottage cheese, eggs, and lemon zest in a bowl. Set aside for later. Also grate mozzarella and Provolone cheeses.

2) For sauce, add a drizzle of oil to a large pot or skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef and brown well for 6-8 minutes, breaking up the beef as it browns.

3) Add mushrooms, onions, and garlic after beef browns. Turn heat down to medium and season with salt and pepper. Cook until veggies soften, another 6-7 minutes.

4) Add tomatoes to the skillet along with oregano and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and turn heat down to medium-low. Let the sauce simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes. If the sauce gets too thick, thin with a little water.

5) Cook ziti according to package. When ziti is boiled, drain and stir in all the meat sauce. Stir to combine.

6) Lay out three 8×8 freezable baking dishes. Add 1/6 of the pasta mixture to each pan. Top with 1/6 of the cottage cheese mixture in each pan and sprinkle with a tiny bit of mozzarella and Provolone. Repeat with a second layer of pasta mixture, cottage cheese mix, and more grated cheese.

If baking immediately: Cover dish with foil and bake at 350 degrees For 20 minutes. Then uncover and bake for 10-15 more minutes.

For freezing: Let dishes cool completely, then cover with a double layer of foil and freeze for up to three months.

To reheat: Move ziti straight from freeze to oven at 350 degrees F. Let bake for an hour, covered, to thaw completely and warm through. Then remove foil and let bake for an additional 15 minutes or so until ziti is bubbling in the center and warmed through.

Big Flavor Sauce

I like to use a mix of beef and mushrooms for my tomato sauce when I make baked pastas like this. But, you could absolutely make it your own. All mushrooms would be fine (I would use like 3 pounds) or you could do a beef/Italian sausage mix?

It’s really your call. When you start the sauce though, just be sure to use a skillet or pan that’s big since we’ll be adding a lot of stuff to it.

Brown the meat first in a little oil over medium-high heat and then add in the veggies.

Starting sauce for baked ziti.

Starting the sauce.

Stir it occasionally as the veggies cook down and the meat browns.

At this point, you can also season the mix well with salt and pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes for heat.

Meat and vegetables for baked ziti.

Beef and Shroom.

Then add in the diced tomatoes and oregano.

At this point, turn your heat down to medium-low and let this sauce simmer for 20-30 minutes. If it gets too thick, add some water or something to it to thin it out.

Also, taste it regularly as it simmers and adjust it to your liking. It’ll need salt and pepper, but you could also add other dried herbs like basil or marjoram. If you’re feeling frisky, splash in some red wine!

Simmering baked ziti sauce.

Sauce simmering.

Cheesing It

Between the cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, and Provolone cheese, there are three pounds of cheese in this recipe. We are making three big casseroles, but you can do the math. It’s not light on the cheese. (And yes… I like cottage cheese in my baked pastas instead of ricotta.)

For the cottage cheese mixture, add in some eggs and lemon zest for a little citrus flavor.

Cottage cheese mix for freezer baked ziti.

Cheese mix.

Pasta and Such

Two pounds of ziti is a lot of pasta. The pieces are thick and you’ll easily fill a 6 quart pot with the pasta and sauce.

Ziti takes the longest of any pasta I know of to cook so don’t worry so much about overcooking it. That’s why I love it for baked pastas because it won’t get soggy unless you just forget about it.

Lots of ziti pasta.

Ziti!

When the pasta is drained, just stir your sauce into the pasta for one big pot of deliciousness.

Baked ziti pasta ready for dishes.

All mixed.

Making the Dishes

You should be able to find a three pack of the disposable freezable 8×8 containers at the store. These are perfect for this recipe.

While you don’t need to weigh out the ingredients, do be mindful that you need to be evenly distributing the ingredients. I like to try to portion out half of the pasta mixture and then divide that between the three dishes (1/6 of the pasta mix in each one).

Then I top that with 1/6 of the cottage cheese mix. Again, I just eyeball it but you get the idea.

Layering pasta.

First layer.

A sprinkle of mozzarella and Provolone on top of that, then another layer of pasta, followed by more cottage cheese and grated cheese.

Each finished dish will be heavy!

Ziti done.

Ready to work.

Freezing and Eating

You can absolutely just toss these in the oven right away if you’re hungry. Cover the dishes well with foil and bake them for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F, then uncover them and bake for another 10-15 minutes.

More than likely though, you’ll want to freeze some of these dishes.

The most important thing is to make sure they cool down completely before freezing them. Just leave them uncovered at room temperature for 20-30 minutes until they are cool. Then cover them with a double layer of heavy duty foil and label and freeze them. They will keep beautifully for 3 months.

Reheating the frozen ziti is easy. Just toss it in the oven for about an hour. Then uncover it for another 10-15 minutes. It should bubbly and melted in the center.

Freezer Baked Ziti: A great freezer casserole of ziti pasta with meat sauce and lots of cheese. A great winter meal that freezes perfectly!

 

More freezer meals!

DIY Instant Brown Rice

diy instant brown rice

Mushroom And Swiss Pockets

Mushroom and Swiss Hot Pockets: Homemade dough stuffed with sauteed mushrooms and swiss cheese. A hearty frozen lunch that's easy to make in bulk and reheat!

Carrot Coconut Soup

Carrot Coconut Soup: A simple but tasty soup that freezes perfectly. Make a huge batch and stock your freezer!

 

 

21 comments on “Freezi Ziti

  1. My grandma always made her lasagna with cottage cheese and now our whole family uses cottage cheese in baked pasta dishes!

  2. Yum! I love having a casserole like this in the freezer for days when cooking just feels like too much to handle. And I’m with you on the cottage cheese thing: my mom makes one of the best lasagnas I’ve ever had…it’s made with cottage cheese and uncooked noodles and it gets “baked” in the microwave. It’s one of those old school recipes that sounds ridiculous but is insanely delicious.

  3. I’m glad to see that there are no comments bashing the cottage cheese! I very much prefer cottage cheese to ricotta in lasagna (or this Ziti alternative). Even though we aren’t expecting any more kids currently, I’m excited to see the rest of the series because with two little ones we are always busy and easy meals are a must!

  4. Yum! I usually use light sour cream in place of cottage cheese but this recipe looks good enough for me to try!

  5. Yay for freezer meals! I kind of hope this becomes a frequent “theme” on your blog, because I’m always on the hunt for more stuff to make big batches of for freezing. *hint, hint* ;-) This sounds delish, and I might need to make it tonight to use up a box of mushrooms in my fridge before they go bad…and if I may, could I request a recipe for fried mushrooms that can be stored in the freezer? They make them commercially, but they aren’t all that delicious and they’re really watery. There’s got to be a way to do it at home! (I can’t justify making them for just myself, so I usually get stuck with the boxed version. *sad face*)

    1. Hmmm… yea… I’ve actually tried a few frozen fried mushrooms over the years and have never had much luck with something I would even want to share… I either make them fresh or not at all…

  6. Of course I know ziti from living in the US, but I suddenly pondered what do we buy here in Australia? Penne would be the closest variety, with the only difference being angled ends. Just in case you were wondering :-)
    I can’t wait to make this!!!

    1. Hey Felicity, I forgot to respond to this, but there is slightly more difference between the two. Ziti is a thicker pasta in general and is sturdier as a result. You can absolutely use penne for baked dishes, but just be very careful not to overcook them as they can get mushy quickly.

      1. Hi Nick; sorry for slow reply. I appreciate your explanation & I’m still looking, but I can’t find ziti anywhere near me. I’ll let you know if I find some :-)

        1. Hey not sure if it would be the same but there is a pasta shape called rigatoni it’s bigger than penne and u can get it at Coles

  7. Do you bake the full 30-35 min. whether eating immediately or throwing in the freezer? I’ve never done freezer meals before so this is new to me. Thanks!

    1. Hey Katie! The 30-35 minute instruction is actually if you bake it right away. If you freeze it and then want to pop it from freezer to oven, you’ll need to bake it for about an hour. I usually check mine around an hour and make sure it’s warm in the center. Good luck!

  8. Ok I have to say something about the cottage cheese…..my grandma would slap the Italian out of me if I didn’t use ricotta! I have tried pasta dishes with cottage cheese in place of ricotta and I can definitely tell a difference and its not for the better either…..real ricotta all tne way!

    1. I can’t eat ricotta, it always makes me sick, so I’m hoping the cottage cheese will be close enough and not make me sick.

  9. As my cheese filler, I use a mixture of one pint ricotta cheese, one 12 oz. bag grated 6-cheese blend (Sargento or equivalent), two medium eggs and Italian seasoning. Cottage cheese? No, thanks.

  10. Ok, so did you add canned tomato sauce to yours to get that deep red, saucy color? I followed the recipe to the letter and the sauce looks lackluster at best. I had such high hopes for this recipe but I’m afraid it’s a thumbs down from this Italian family.
    I guess grandma really did know best on this one.

    1. Ha. Sorry it didn’t work out for you. Yea.. i used canned tomatoes but good quality ones. There can be a big difference for sure. Anyway, it sounds like you have a winner already. Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken. :)

  11. My sauce doesn’t look like yours. More runny and not like. Marinara. Also, I misread step 1 and lopped everything together. Hope it turns out…

  12. I’m still confused about if I’m freezing right away do I put in the overnight to bake first?

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