Baked Ziti Freezer Meals


I thought I would take a break from Christmas preparations for a minute and share one of the Christmas gifts that I am making. I am putting together homemade frozen dinners for my grandparents. I know that Grandma LOVES my baked ziti (she is half Italian after all!) so I made a batch for them. (Note: it is not cooked in this picture- just ready to freeze!)
One of my batches makes 3 8” square pans or 2 9”x13”cake pans. Not only is this a great gift, it is just nice to have some frozen dinners on hand for those unexpectedly busy evenings- and it prevents a fast food splurge, too! So I thought it would be a great idea to share here. Without further ado, the recipe:

Baked Ziti
~2 pounds loose sausage (Optional- I actually like it just fine without meat, but Hubby and other meaty guys I know like it better. Oh, and you can use hamburger, too.)
~6 cups spaghetti sauce (I used a quart and a pint of what I canned this summer and added a little tomato paste to thicken cause my sauce is always runny, but I had some left over, so if you are purchasing jars from the store get less)
~1 pound ziti pasta
~32oz. Ricotta cheese (Stock up when this is on sale!)
~6 cups mozzarella
~½ cup parmesan

Brown sausage and drain grease. Add tomato sauce to pan and heat through. Meanwhile, boil ziti just until tender- do not overcook! Drain. Mix ricotta and 3 cups mozzarella and stir in cooked ziti. Put a layer of sauce on the bottom of each pan. Top with ziti and cheese mixture, splitting it evenly between the pans. Spread remaining sauce on top of ziti. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella evenly on top of each pan and then sprinkle heavily with parmesan.

Then, you have two options- bake now or freeze! (I like to put these in two cake pans to make one right away for dinner and freeze the other for later.) If you are baking it right away, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese on top is bubbly and begins to brown. If you are freezing it, cover with plastic wrap, then foil. (If you are giving it as a gift, be sure to label and include heating instructions.) When you go to bake it, remove the plastic wrap and put the foil back on. Then bake at 350 degrees until it is heated through and the cheese is bubbly and begins to brown on top- I really forget how long it takes.