Cooking for a small household can be a challenge especially when there is only one or two. Recipes are usually family or party size when it comes to dishes like manicotti. I bought a box of manicotti shells that called out to me at the grocery during a pasta sale. It was a 2 for one. I got it and another type of pasta. I added a few other items that was needed, which I did not have on hand, to my grocery cart. The basic recipe was on the back of the box.
When it came time to make them, I got to thinking that I didn’t want a partial box of manicotti shells in my cupboard. I still have the part used box of lasagna noodles from the roll ups I made. So I did a deep dive into my cupboard and small chest freezer because I had only bought half the amount that was on the box’s recipe. I had two small aluminum pans that come with waxed carboard tops that I purchase at my local dollar store. They come two to a package for a dollar. I use them to freeze food. They are ideal for small casseroles. I always keep a pack on hand for that. Because I depend on the local food bank to help me make it from social security check to the next months, I have items like peanut butter and canned tomato soup that seem to multiply in my cupboard.
That led me to do a search looking to see if there was recipes for using tomato soup in manicotti and there was several recipes. I could mix the condensed soup with the tomato sauce I had. To stretch the ricotta cheese and spinach I thawed out a pound of ground beef. I chopped up some frozen mushrooms that I had froze from the food bank when they had a large donation of them a couple of months ago. The mushrooms were cooked with the ground beef, onion, garlic and Italian herbs. I left that cool while I cooked the pasta.
To cook the pasta, I didn’t put the whole box in at once. I only put enough that fit the bottom of my large pot. I was able to do all of them in two batches. A little vegetable oil in the water helps to keep them from sticking to the pot and to each other. I followed the directions for the cooking time on the box. I laid them out on a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet after they were done to cool.
I followed the general directions on the box to make the filling, mixing the meat into the spinach and ricotta cheese. After the manicotti was stuffed I made the sauce. I poured some tomato soup undiluted on the bottoms of the two freezer pans and a casserole dish. The stuffed manicottis was divided up between the three pans. The sauce I made was a can of spaghetti sauce and two cans of condensed tomato soup. All it needed was a little more spice to taste. I didn’t cook the sauce just mixed it. I ended up with more sauce then what I needed so I put the left over sauce in a baggie to freeze. I made sure the two pans that was to go in the freezer had plenty of sauce to cover the manicotti. It freezes better with sauce all over the noodles. Less freezer burn that way.
Foil needs to go on top if the pan first then the cardboard top. After that you fold down the edges over the cardboard. Place the whole thing into a freezer bag. I like the bread bags that have twist ties. You can make a more compact package with twist ties squeezing out the air. They also fit better.
I ended up with tonight’s dinner and two casseroles for the future and some tomato sauce for a future dish.
I normally give a small introduction and the recipe but I wanted to demonstrate how you can make meals ahead. Many of the more recent cook books I have found at the thrift stores have many recipes for only 4 servings. For cooking for one or two people this system is ideal. You can still enjoy a family type dinner by dividing up the recipe to freeze for a future meal.