Monday, January 16, 2012

Quick and easy lasagna

What a great feeling to have healthy and delicious meals waiting in your freezer

After 7 wet days camping with a super organised friend, my mission for 2012 is to attempt to have nutritious and delicious meals in my freezer for my son. We are both working mums and find the 5pm kids dinner hour a bit of a challenge. Over the holiday break there has been a lot of snacking going on, chips and dips, fish and chips, easy camp meals and of course ice creams and ice blocks. The kids have loved it, such a change from their regular healthy daycare lunches and snacks.
Both Ingrid and I are due to have second babies and be on maternity leave in about 10 weeks so the thought of life with two kids is quite daunting. An even better reason to get organised!

I have been reading a book called “Economy Gastonomy” by Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merret. I bought it cheap somewhere and about a year later saw their show on TV. It’s a great read and a fabulous introduction in to being organised and stretching your dollar. It motivated me to start with basics like mince and tinned fish. My first creation was Lasagna, kids love pasta and adults can spice it up with a bit of Tabasco and crisp salad. A few things I discovered along the way…
  • Add a tin of beans (baked beans, chili beans, butter beans) , it makes the mince go further.
  • Ensure the lasagna has a far bit of liquid/wetness in the sauces, the pasta really does soak it up.
  • Add vegetables such as carrots, aubergines, courgettes, mushrooms, peas even a puree of vegetables – the kids will never know.  

Make it fun for the kids! 

The recipe I am giving you is not exact, its very forgiving and with a bit of planning is pretty easy to create an impressive dish.
What you need

Meat sauce
Mince 500g-1kg
Tinned chopped tomatoes x2
1 tub/tube tomato puree/concentrate/paste
Olive oil
1 onion
6 cloves of garlic (its really mild cooked)
1 tin beans
Vegetables – anything goes really

Cheese sauce
Tasty cheese or what ever leftovers you have in the fridge

Lasagna sheets OR any other pasta you have in your cupboard

Add cherry tomatoes for a splash of colour and vitamin hit
Firstly make the meat sauce.
Saute the onions and garlic in olive oil until soft, add the mince and brown it. Then add the chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper and about a tin of water. Simmer uncovered for a while and you should notice the water evaporating and the sauce thickening. Add the vegetables and paste and simmer until they are soft. Finally add the beans. You will have to monitor the sauce by adding more water if needed or simmering for longer if not thick enough. Also watch the meat doesn’t catch the bottom of the pot. (keep tasting it and adding more salt if needed, you can even add a teaspoon of sugar to sweeten the tomatoes)
Whilst the sauce is simmering get stuck in and make the cheese sauce.

Now you need to make a roux, this is a mixture of flour and butter that acts a thickening agent. Melt about 2 large tablespoons of butter in a pot, add a similar amount of flour and mix to a paste. You may have to take off the heat if its cooking a bit fast. Add milk ½ cup at a time, only adding more when its thick. When you have the sauce to the consistency you need add the cheese – grated, cubes, chunks or leftover pieces. Set aside.  

In an oven proof deep dish add a layer of lasagna sheets or dried pasta shapes. Add a thick layer of meat sauce, cheese sauce and more pasta. Keep repeating the process until you have nothing left. Basically you need to make sure the pasta has moisture to cook in from either sauces. It doesn’t really matter what you finish with as long as the pasta is covered with meat or cheese sauce. I also added some tomato slices on top at the end for a bit of colour.

Bake for about 30-40 minutes at about 200 degrees, you can usually tell if its cooked by putting a knife into it and it should pierce the pasta easily.  
Let it cool down before you slice it and portion it up and put in to freezer suitable containers or tin foil. I used tin foil and the only disadvantage is you can’t defrost in the microwave if the tin foil sticks to the frozen lasagna.

Sit back, relax and enjoy knowing you have family dinner or kids portions waiting to impress. 

I also made a fish pie, check out previous post, add a mash and cheese top, cool and chuck it in the freezer. 

Rice - yes you can freeze it, cook it and cool it fast by laying it our on to a baking tray. when cool bag it or put into containers and place in the coldest part of your freezer. Not the door or by the front. 
Heat in the microwave ensuring its HOT! 


  1. Both on maternity leave! That's exciting, your babies can be mates right from the start.

    Good plan with the make-ahead lasagne - I like adding beans or lentils to mince to make it go further, adds a ton of vitamins and things too.

  2. Yip Crazy and unplanned (babies planned but timing not planned LOL) BUT will be fantastic especially if they are both sleepers - imagine all the blogging, cooking and photography we can do fingers crossed...

  3. Love that idea of freezing cooked rice, I feel like that's totally something I would benefit from. The lasagna looks great too - it's been ages since I've had lasagna actually! Craving it now ;)