Once upon a time, I had a food business called Wholly Moses! 75% Commercial Kitchen and 25% retail space, I manufactured and packaged healthy meals from scratch – to go. I beat the odds on longevity and my business had a great reputation, but eventually grew weary of the long hours and very tight profit margins. We, and I say we because it required a team effort, frequently cooked casseroles in very large quantities. Poor Tony will have a PTSD episode as he reads this typical Wholly Moses! recipe. The information on cutting, packaging and freezing will absolutely send him over the edge.
We all get busy and don’t want to have to think about food. The secret is to think through the ingredients and cook food in bulk that freezes and reheats well. Casseroles are perfect since they do not rely on fresh ingredients and rarely have varieties of textures to complicate matters. When making pasta, make sure that it is made on the al dente side. It is going to bake in the casserole and be reheated in the microwave, so you want to avoid it going soggy.
The following recipe serves 12.
2 lb of short pasta – your choice
2 lb of sausage – your choice
1 lb ground pork (I had it in the fridge from earlier in the week and didn’t want to throw it out!)
2 large onions
6 cloves garlic
1 small can tomato paste
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
3-4 Tbs of mixed Italian herbs
2 cups shredded Mozzarella
2 cups shredded Parmesan
Cook off your pasta and set aside. Make sure to leave it al dente. Also pictured above is a 12 x 17 (30x45cm) casserole pan. This is an original Wholly Moses! pan.
Remove the casing from your sausage.
Prep your pork.
Prep your sausage.
And brown. Do not overcook the meat. Just like the pasta, it will be heated a couple more times and you do not want to dry it out or make it tough.
You can open the canned tomatoes and start heating them in a large stock-pot. Also add the tomato paste and a can of water.
Once the meat has browned – and you can expect to do this in several batches if you are using non-commercial equipment – you can add it to the stock-pot with the tomatoes. I had a griddle at Wholly Moses! and regularly cooked-off 10 lbs of meat at a time.
Saute your onions…
Until beginning to soften and then add your garlic, minced.
Your onion/garlic mixture will pick up some of the coloring from your sausage.
Place in the stock-pot with the tomatoes and the browned meat.
Add your Italian herb mix to the stock-pot and allow the flavors to mellow for 15-20 minutes.
Mix the pasta and the sauce, then divide into two.
You can probably guesstimate half, but I have the bowls to do it, so I break mine down into two.
I also do the same with the two cheese, mixing them half-and-half into two bowls.
Either spray or rub the casserole with oil. While not strictly necessary, it will help you plate up at the end.
Place half of the pasta mixture into the casserole and top with the cheese mixture. Repeat with the remainder of the ingredients and put into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. It really doesn’t need much more than that since the casserole is already cooked and heated through.
Remove from the oven when the cheese is melted and browning slightly.
Allow to cool on a rack…
Wrap and place into the fridge to cool overnight.
You want the casserole to be cold and set up. I have tried to portion warm casserole and it is a mess – do not even think about it!
I spent a great deal of money on my packaging when I was in business. I will be blogging at a latter date about plastics and what happens to them when you heat them. It is especially important with dished like this that will be frozen and then microwaved. It is also important when thinking about sous-vide. I recently read a recipe where the author suggested to put the food into a ziploc bag and then place into the sous-vide bath. I am no food scientist, but this does not sound like a good idea to me. I will do the research and report my findings.
The tools for plating up are very simple. A dough scraper and a sharp knife.
The casserole is going to be cut into thirds lengthwise and then in half and quarters. If you look at the bottom of the casserole, you can still see the cut marks from repeated use…
First cut into thirds lengthwise.
The dough scraper will give you an approximation of one-third.
Then cut in half width-wise and then cut those halves in half again.
Lift out each piece with a spatula and place in freezable/microwaveable container.
Don’t forget to add a label so that you will know what is inside and when it is made!