Freezing Pasta

One of the keys to success around a house with 4 little kids is being prepared. For meals on busy days that means having things prepared ahead of time. A couple days of the week when we are running around to therapy appointments or classes in the afternoon I try to get dinner made in the morning and have it ready for us when we get home at 5:30. But that just doesn't always happen. So my solution on those kinds of days is to have things in my freezer that are easy to pull out and quickly serve. One of those things is cooked pasta.

A few years back I noticed that Trader Joes was selling bags of frozen cooked pasta - you just pop them in the microwave and serve, with cooked pasta ready in just 3 minutes.  I bought those for a while.  But as little bodies and appetites grow and grow, buying packaged things like that gets expensive - one bag of pasta doesn't do it for us.  So I freeze my own now.  

Whenever I am cooking any kind of pasta, I always, always make extra and freeze it.  I do this with any kind of pasta.  Penne is a favorite, because it's sturdy enough that it can hold up to being tossed around in the freezer a bit.  All you do is just toss your cooked pasta with a little oil or butter, let it cool, and then spread it out on a baking sheet to freeze without sticking together.  Then dump it onto a ziploc bag.  When you want to use it, pull out the amount you want and warm it up.  You can do this in the microwave for a couple minutes.  Or you can put a little hot water over it and let it sit for just a minute or two - this method works especially well if the pasta got a little dry in the freezer.

For longer pastas like spaghetti - below you will see what I do.  Take a fork and spin individual little servings onto a baking sheet (lined with wax paper helps keep them from sticking).  They look like little birds nests.  Then freeze these and then bag them when frozen.

Having cooked pasta in the freezer means I can have a meal ready for hungry kids in less than 5 minutes - thaw the pasta, toss it with a little sauce, or some butter & cheese, throw in some frozen peas or chopped broccoli, maybe dice up some ham or salami - a balanced meal in minutes.


One Pot Spaghetti

I have had this recipe for - literally - 25 years, and it is as good today as it was back then. I got it from the mother of my college boyfriend.  I have no idea where she got it. I still have it written on a piece of paper in the handwriting the college me - so strange to look at your own old handwriting. This is the ultimate definition of comfort food.  I'm sure that any self respecting Italian will be absolutely horrified at the notion of cooking pasta this way - it seems so wrong.  But your kids will love it.  My husband loves it.  My grown stepsons and their friends love it.  I made it for a house full of guys back in college, and I've make it for family and friends for 25 years. Everyone I have ever shared it with has loved it.  This is one pot cooking at its best.  It's great for a crowd.  And it's great boating or camper food - aside from the meat (which you can leave out), it can all be cooked with dry ingredients from the pantry if you want.   I made a quadruple batch this weekend - we had one of our son's friends with us for the weekend, an Afghan war vet who had just completed hiking the over 2,600 mile Pacific Crest trail from end to end.  This guy needed to be fed!  And I think he managed to put away more of this spaghetti than any person I have ever seen!

There are no pretty pictures.  Really, it's not pretty.  But it is so delicious.

Here is the original recipe - then I will tell you what I do.

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 8oz cans of tomato sauce
  • 4 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1/4 t dry basil
  • 1 t dry parsley
  • pinch of thyme
  • pinch of oregano
  • 8 oz spaghetti
  • 2 T parmesan cheese

Sauté beef, onion and garlic until meat is brown and onion soft.  Add remaining ingredients except spaghetti & cheese.  Bring to a boil, then add spaghetti.  Boil for 18 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn off heat, stir in cheese, and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

So that's the original basic recipe.  You can make it just like that, and you will love it.  Or here are a few comments on how I do it:

  • I pretty much always at least double this.  If you double, then it's basically 1 package of spaghetti.  But I only put in 8 cups of water.  I basically anymore only look at the recipe to make sure I get the quantity of water right, because I can't seem to remember.  But after that, I just add what sounds good.
  • I've never put in sugar, I don't think it's necessary.
  • Lately I have been using my own home made tomato sauce.  A tomato-ey sauce with a lot of other pureed vegetables mixed in - cooked into a spaghetti like this - the kids have no idea they're eating veggies!
  • I almost always use whole wheat spaghetti these days, and can't tell the difference.
  • If I do use plain canned sauce, then I just use an Italian seasoning blend, rather than the individual herbs.  Or a good quality jar of seasoned spaghetti sauce works too.
  • I think it needs to sit longer than 10 minutes.  It will seem like too much water after simmering for 20 minutes, but walk away and come back in 20 minutes and you will be surprised.
  • I usually save the cheese until serving.  It just makes the pan easier to wash if there isn't a bunch of melted cheese all stuck to it.
  • it's great with sausage!
  • Or leave out the meat and cheese and you have a really great and comforting vegetarian meal.

yep.  It's mushy.  Just like you remember liking spaghetti as a kid.  It's comfort food.

You can take this basic formula and apply it to almost any combination of pasta and sauce.  Really it's just about playing with it and getting the pasta/water ratio right.  We have this a lot on Sunday nights, especially in the fall and winter.  And it's even better left over.

Enjoy!  (I know you will).