Make Ahead Meals: White Baked Penne Pasta

I am starting a series of blogs for Make Ahead Meals that I am preparing before Baby 2.0 arrives. Every night when I make dinner, I am doubling the recipe and putting the second in the freezer. I am hoping that the prepared meals will help on those totally exhausted days when cooking sounds like no fun. I am hoping many of the meals I will be preparing will be somewhat healthy and low calorie, but I know there will be some meals mixed in that aren’t. To prepare for the freezer meals, I purchased some slow cooker liners (for the crockpot meals), gallon freezer bags (for the freezer skillet meals), and Aluminum Foil Steam Table Pans with matching lids (for the freezer casseroles).
White Baked Penne Pasta
This is an example of a NOT healthy meal. I ran across the original recipe for Baked Ziti and Sausage Recipe at Taste of Home, and didn’t realize how sooo not good for you this recipe was for you! It’s loaded with lots of cheese and pasta, which might be why it turned out really good! I of course, changed the recipe from the original– used whole wheat penne pasta, added some different things, and amounts of ingredients from the original. I doubled the recipe and cooked one in a casserole dish for dinner and put the other in the freezer pan for next month. We really liked this recipe and can’t wait to have it again! 
6 cups uncooked whole wheat penne pasta
5 chicken brat sausage links (I used chicken and asiago cheese.)
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups skim milk
2 cups whole milk
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
2 egg, lightly beaten
4 cups (16 ounces) 2% cottage cheese
2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
2 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
4 tablespoons of red pepper flakes, depending how spicy you like it
2 tablespoons of Paprika
salt and pepper
1. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and put in a large bowl.
2. Cook the sausage according to directions. Mine were already precooked so it’s just a matter of heating them up. Once cooked, sliced them into 1/2 pieces.  
3. In a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in the flour, salt and pepper. Don’t over salt, there is a lot of cheese in this recipe which will add enough salt for you.
4. When you rue is made, gradually add in milk and bring to a boil. Cook for a few minutes until milk is thickened and stir often until thick.
5. Stir in 1 cup of Parmesan cheese.
6. Pour milk mixture over pasta in large bowl and stir to combine.
7. In separate bowl– combine egg, cottage cheese, parsley, and remaining Parmesan cheese. Again salt and pepper.
This part of the recipe, we will divide the ingredients into two dishes– one for the oven for dinner, one for the freezer.
8. Grease a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish (or a dish a smaller then a 9×13 pan) and grease a aluminum foil steam table pan for the freezer.
9. Spoon 1/4 of the pasta/milk mixture into each pan. Add sausage to remaining pasta mixture in bowl and stir.
10. Top each pan with half of the cottage cheese mixture.
11. Sprinkle each pan evenly with red pepper flakes.
12. Divide the rest of the sausage/pasta mixture into both pans.
13. Sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella cheese on each pan and sprinkle paprika on the top.
14. If you plan on eating the dinner that night– Bake,  uncovered, at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160°.
15. For the freezer casserole, cover with tin foil and matching pan lid. The two layers will keep the casserole from getting freezer burn. Write the following directions on the pan lid:
Thaw, bake uncovered at 350° for 30-35 minutes, until 160° in center

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