This is one of my family's favorite and easiest bulk meal prep meals. I cook once and have at least 2 family dinners out of it, sometimes 3 or 4. I made sure to have a couple of batches of this in the freezer for when baby arrived too. It's also an incredibly easy recipe to modify. You can use whole wheat pasta, gluten free pasta and swap in ground beef for the turkey. You could also use nutritional yeast as a substitute for the cheese if you want to make it dairy free.
I like to use a cast iron skillet when I stir fry the meat and veggies together because then I can just slide that same skillet into the oven for the batch that I'm going to use for dinner that same night once I add in the pasta and cheese. Less dishes are always a win!
Here's what you'll need for this simple family crowd pleaser!
-2 x 1 lb boxes of pasta
-1 package of frozen, chopped spinach or 2-3 cups fresh spinach
-1-1 1/2 lb of lean ground turkey
-2 x 28 oz cans tomato sauce plus 1-2 cups additional sauce for topping when baking - each dish
-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese plus additional for topping when baking each dish
-2 tsp garlic powder
-2 tsp oregano
Prepare the pasta according to the package directions While the pasta is cooking, spray a skillet with non-stick cooking spray, heat on medium heat and add the ground turkey to the heated skillet. Pan fry the turkey until fully cooked and there is no pink meat throughout. Drain the turkey of any excess water. Prepare the frozen spinach in the microwave or on the stove top based on the directions on the package. Once the spinach is cooked, drain of any excess water and use a fork to separate all of the spinach and ensure it is not frozen anywhere in the middle. If using fresh spinach, add it to the turkey and stir fry until cooked and significantly reduced in volume.
Once the pasta is cooked, strain to remove the water and return the pasta to the large pot. Add in the turkey, spinach, 2 large cans of tomato sauce, the garlic powder and oregano. Stir until well combined. Add in 2 cups of shredded cheese and stir again. Prepare 2 casserole dishes by spraying with non-stick cooking spray and pour half of the pasta into each prepared dish. For the dish you are cooking now, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, spread an additional 1-2 cups of sauce on top and sprinkle some extra cheese on top. Cover & bake for 30-40 minutes until cheese is melted and dish heated throughout.
For the dish you are placing in the freezer, allow to cool, cover, label and store in the freezer. When ready to use the freezer dish, transfer to the fridge approx. 2 days ahead of time. Top with additional sauce and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 45 minutes until heated all the way through.
Enjoy a night off of cooking!
I'm in the mindset of baby prep these days and I want some grab and go meals ready in the freezer for when this little one decides to arrive. This particular dish has turned into one of my family's favorites...the kids just call it "taco night" and it's literally such an easy dish to put together and double batch so it's the perfect "one for now, one for later" recipe. Same amount of work but 2 family meals ready to go.
This recipe also happens to use a lot of pantry staples such as rice, quinoa, beans and salsa. Nothing fancy and it's substitution friendly, which is also helpful for this quarantine period that we're finding ourselves in these days. You could make this without meat for a vegetarian option. No quinoa? No problem. Just go with all rice...or all quinoa...whatever your preference. I used freshly chopped peppers and onions but a bag of frozen will do just fine. Light on salsa? Add in some drained, canned diced tomatoes.
Here's what you'll need:
-Approximately 2 lbs of chicken breasts or thighs
-3 cups salsa (an additional cup will be needed when you use the freezer meal)
-2 cups cooked black beans (I buy my beans in a bag and prep them by soaking over night but you can adjust the amount based on canned beans if that's what you have or prefer to use)
-3 cups of rice, quinoa or combination
-2 bell peppers
-3 TBS olive oil
-1 tsp garlic powder
-2 tsp chili powder
-2 cups shredded cheese (an additional 2 cups will be needed when you use the freezer meal)
Fixings for Serving Options
-hard taco shells
-sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
-chopped lettuce and tomatoes
Spray the inside of a crock pot with non-stick cooking spray. Place the chicken breasts or thighs in the crock pot and spread 2 cups of salsa on top. Cover and set on high for approximately 3 hours. At around 3 hours, use two forks to shred the chicken (it should shred easily when fully cooked). Once fully shredded, return the lid and reduce to low while you prepare the other ingredients.
On the stove top, prepare the rice/quinoa per the instructions on the package of grains. Once cooked, set aside. In a skillet, heat up 3 TBS of olive oil on medium heat. Chop the onion and peppers. Add the onion to the heated olive oil and stir fry 2-3 minutes until it begins to soften. Add the bell peppers, garlic powder and chili powder. Stir fry the onion, peppers and spices for approximately 10 minutes until softened. Remove from heat.
Get 2 casserole dishes approximately the size of 9x11 or 9x13. I used a reusable 9x13 dish for the dish I was cooking for dinner that night and I used a 9x11'ish disposable casserole dish for the one I placed in the freezer.
Spray the bottom of the casserole dishes with non-stick cooking spray. Divide the rice/quinoa in half and line the bottom of each dish with the grains. Then divide the chicken mixture in half and spread on top of the rice/quinoa layer in each casserole dish. Top each dish with half of the beans and stir fried peppers/onions. Stop here for the dish that is going into the freezer. Allow to cool, cover with foil, label and place into the freezer.
For the dish you are cooking now, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread an additional cup of salsa on top of the veggies/beans and top with 2 cups of shredded cheese spread evenly across the top of the dish. Cover and bake for 30-40 minutes until the cheese is bubbly, melted and the dish is heated through. Serve with the optional fixings!
When you're ready to use the freezer meal, transfer it into the fridge approximately 2-3 days ahead of time to thaw safely. Then pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, top with the additional salsa and cheese and bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes. Enjoy!
New England wife, mom & home baker. Faith, food, fitness, baking, cooking and constantly cleaning my kitchen.