Freezer Cooking Series: Baked Ziti From the Freezer
Update: The video was from last summer, but the written post below was from a couple of years ago.
Dinners from the freezer: Because sometimes you need to drop everything and explain to your kids why we don’t draw swastikas on things.
“Look what we made, Mama!”, my five and seven-year-old sons said proudly. As they waved a little homemade flag with a hand-drawn swastika on it.
I don’t think anything can quite prepare you for the sight of two little boys brandishing a swastika. Especially if those boys are yours. Not to mention, they had just gotten brand new Marine Corps haircuts and for a minute they both looked like something right out of Hitler Youth. I just about passed out.
Thirty minutes later, they were both sitting on the sofa, pale as ghosts, mouths wide open.
As I wrapped up my thirty minute impromptu presentation on why we are never allowed to draw a swastika, EVER, they both looked up at me with solemn little faces and said, “We promise, mama, we’ll never draw that thing again. Never. Ever”.
And they haven’t.
Children are capable of understanding more that you might think.
“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world”. The saying may be cliché, but hear me mama’s of the world: If you think that learning history and passing on those lessons of history to your children is beyond your job description, you would be wrong.
And it really is okay to ban certain things from your home. In fact, it’s your job.
It’s okay to say “no”. It’s okay to tell the truth about horrific bits of history. It’s okay to drop everything, let the household come screeching to a halt, and draw the line. I do it all the time. Whenever something happens which is what we’ll call a “HELL NO MOMENT”, I drop everything and address it. Dinner is delayed, playdates are canceled, we miss lessons and practice. Even my precious laundry routine is halted. One thing I’ve never done is let issues of a character nature (or other serious issues) slide just because life is moving us in an insanely fast direction. I’m THE MAMA, and I’ll say “time out” whenever I need to so I can draw the line.
No one tells you about this in that parenting manual we never got.
The swastika drawing incident of 2016 was not a character issue, but it demanded the same level of “hell no” response on my part. My boys had just seen that symbol in one of the many WWII documentaries that their big brother watches. They were just trying to make a menacing looking flag for their back yard Nerf Gun war. They had no idea what it really meant.
They know now!
Ban on swastikas.
Because there’s no such thing as “swastikas in moderation”. Just like there’s no such thing as “cheating in moderation” or “trashing the house (frat party-style) in moderation “, just to name a few.
Mama says “hell no”.
For those “hell no” moments, I always keep a couple ziti’s in the freezer.
This recipe makes two full pans and you can throw them both together in about thirty minutes. Pop them in the freezer and you’re ready to smack down whatever axis of evil comes knocking……and still get dinner on the table in good time.
HOWEVER…..I have learned that there are a couple dishes that are easy to throw together, and can really get you out of a bind when your kids have just transformed themselves into the Hitler Youth and you really, REALLY need to put everything else on the back burner while you sort that shit out.
This baked ziti would be one of those “do able” recipes.
In my opinion, the whole point of a “freezer recipe” is that it comes together quickly. We’re doing it to SAVE time, so we need to be able to throw it together in a flash.
The recipe is a simple ratio:
For ONE pan of ziti you’ll need
1 Pound penne, boiled
1 small container (11oz-16oz) whole milk ricotta cheese
1 jar of marinara sauce
1 8oz block of mozzarella, grated
Ratio up for each pan you want to make.
Advice for newbies: Keep it small. I can throw together 8 pans when my kids are in school and I have the house to myself. 4 pans when they are running around and I feel I have extra energy. Two pans when I’m just desperate to get something in the freezer. Choose your ratio wisely based on where you are in your life and how much you feel you can accomplish without completely exhausting yourself.
You’ll also need some foil, nonstick spray, and some aluminum casserole dishes. You can use glass or earthenware casserole dishes if you want. You can freeze the ziti in several small containers, or one big large one.
First, mix the eggs and the ricotta.
Kind of hard to get it all mixed nicely, but use a whisk and keep it up. It will break down.
Nice and smooth. Just right.
Put the cooked pasta into the disposable pans. I coat them with nonstick spray, first. Plop spoons of the egg/ricotta mixture over the top of the pasta.
You can leave them in clumps (left), or stir it so each piece of pasta is coated. It’s both good. You decide if you want ricotta clumps or not. I like both.
Next, pour a jar of sauce over each pan of penne and ricotta mixture. I have a great recipe for homemade sauce and I do think it’s better than jarred sauce, but remember – the whole point here is to throw something together in minutes, then throw it in the freezer. If you want to use your own recipe of sauce, I’m sure it will turn out very well.
Grate your cheese and throw it over the top. One 8oz block of mozzarella for each.
So, here’s a little trick: You are going to cover each with foil, right? Well before you put the foil on the ziti’s spray the side of the foil that will be FACING DOWN. That way, when your ziti’s cooking the cheese won’t stick to the sheet of foil.
So spray the sheet of foil with nonstick spray, then turn it facing down, and cover your ziti.
Label it with the month you made it and a happy face for reassurance when you are having a “hell no” moment. Because you will. You will be frustrated. You will be terrified. You will be exhausted. You will be…….
*Yoda voice*: “You will be…”.
Pop them in the freezer for up to 8 weeks.
If you want to skip the freezer and cook them right away, NO WORRIES! Just keep them uncovered and bake them for 30-35 minutes at 350*.
From the freezer: Pop the whole thing (foil and all) into a COLD oven then set the temp to 350*. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Take off foil and bake for 15-20 minutes more.
1 1/2 hours. That’s enough time to set things straight. Run an errand. Pick someone up from soccer. Call your spouse and announce that tonight is one of “those nights” and that you’ll need full moral indignation as a back up measure.
And that’s just how it’s done.
No one said parenting was going to be easy. But it’s do-able. It really is. You just try. And then go to bed, and get up the next morning and try again. You educate yourself, and check yourself, and keep on trying. It’s the most important thing you will ever do.
You’ll be okay, kid.