For a busy (and traveling) mom, a quick meal is a beautiful thing.  Here’s one of my favorite standbys – two, really.

A quick meal that does double duty is even better. Why cook twice when you can stretch one dinner into two instead?

NOW:  Pasta with homemade meat sauce;  LATER:  Baked cheesy pasta

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped fine or crushed
1 16-oz. can tomato puree
1 16-oz. can crushed tomatoes
Fresh basil
1 l.b lean ground beef, separated and boiled
2 lbs. dried pasta, such as mini rigatoni
Salt
Pinch sugar

In a 4- to 6-quart pot, heat the oil.  Add the onion and saute until clear; stir in the garlic.  Do not let garlic brown.  Add the puree.  Add a handful of basil (use a steeper if you have it).  Bring to a boil.  Add the beef.  Turn the heat to low and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes.

About 15 minutes before the sauce is done, bring eight quarts of water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente (usually one minute less than is stated on the package).  Add 2 tablespoons of  salt.  Drain the pasta and separate it into two bowls.  Stir a small amount of sauce into each bowl to prevent the pasta from sticking.

Serve Bowl No. 1 tonight with sauce, Parmesan cheese and fresh veggie sticks.

OPTIONS:      

  • Double the recipe; freeze sauce in small containers.
  • Replace beef with tuna, veggie burger or ground turkey
  • For zest:  add large, chopped green pepper to sauce; remove when sauce is done.
  • Replace ground beef with veal chop or beef with bone-in

LATER:  Baked Pasta

1 lb. cottage cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
½ cup Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. parsley
Bowl No. 2 of pasta with sauce
1 lb. mozzarella cheese

In a medium bowl, mix cottage cheese, beaten egg, Parmesan and parsley.

Spray nonstick oil on the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Spread a layer of pasta on the bottom of the pan. Spread a layer of the cottage cheese mixture on top. Sprinkle mozzarella on the cheese layer. Spread meat sauce on top of cheese. Repeat each layer once, and end with a sprinkling of mozzarella on top. Cover and freeze.
To serve, bake at 400 degrees for 65 minutes.

OPTIONS:  Layer in sliced meatballs or zucchini.