easy dinner

Meat Lovers Pasta Bake

Do you like meat? And easy recipes? And recipes that can be made with leftovers and ingredients you have on hand?

If you answered yes, then you’re going to absolutely love this meat lovers pasta bake. If you answered no to the meat question, stick around… you can make this dish with veggies instead. But the meat part? Oh-so-good.

If you have pasta, cheese, diced tomatoes, and some leftover meat (pretty much any kind will work), then you’ve got dinner. Bonus points if you have pasta-friendly veggies like mushrooms and onions.

Start with a can of diced tomatoes. You earn some bonus credit if they’re Italian seasoned, but just use what’s in your pantry, or dice up some garden tomatoes. If they’re canned, don’t drain them. Just pour 1/3 of the can in the bottom of your casserole dish.

Now, make a pot of pasta. I use an entire box of Barilla Rotini, but you use whatever pasta you have. I like the rotini for this dish because it holds up nicely, but so does literally any other pasta you have. Drain it, and put half of it on top of your tomatoes.

Now it’s time to get creative. Throw some meat on there. We like to make this dish a couple of days after pizza or calzone night because there’s always leftover meats. For this time around, we used sausage, hamburger, pepperoni, and prosciutto, but you can use anything you have in your fridge. Chicken? Yes. Ham? Totally. Sausage? Do it. We only had a little bit of each meat, but you can pile it as high as you’d like or add as little as you want. Make sure your meat is already cooked or that you cook it beforehand. If you’re using leftover pizza toppings, it should all be cooked, but if you’re pulling it out of your freezer, you’ll want to cook it yourself. Once you’ve layered on your meats, add any veggies you’d like. We had leftover mushrooms and onions from pizza night, but put whatever you like on a pizza in this dish. If you like eggplant and pineapple, go for it. If you prefer onions and bell pepper, try that. Want to go veg-free like my dad? Sure. That works, too. This is the most customize-able pasta dish ever.

Top that with a layer of cheese, then a layer of tomatoes, then pasta, meat, and veggies. Finish with one more layer of tomatoes and another layer of cheese.

Cooking for one? Make a little bit in a small baking dish. Cooking for 50? Make multiple pans. This recipe stretches or downsizes. I use a 3 quart baking dish for my family of 5, but seriously, this meal is so flexible. Bake it at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and melty. I used mozzarella and parmesan from Crystal Farms on mine, but use whatever Italian style cheeses you have (or try cheddar, or whatever you want). I’m telling you, this is a ridiculously easy to customize meal. It’s perfect for any family.

Once it’s all melty, dig in and serve. Because of the layers, almost any scoop you take will have a little bit of everything! Yum.

I highly recommend serving this pasta with the Garlic Knots that I shared recently on my Facebook page. You can find them by going to “albums” and you’ll see the recipe!

Do you love easy meals? Try my chicken bacon ranch pasta bake, southwest chicken and rice, or crockpot cashew chicken!

What’s your go-to meal to use up leftovers?

 

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Campfire Favorites: Beef and Veggie Hobo Packs

Not too long ago, a rule was made that my brother had to pitch in with dinner sometimes. Now, my brother is a pretty good cook, but like all of us, he likes easy, and a lot of times, he sticks to the tried-and-true. So much so that we quickly realized that any nights where it was Jeffrey’s turn to cook, we either got waffles, or we got hobo packs. I started watching him making the hobo packs (as we affectionately call them, but apparently foil packet meal or foil packet dinner also works), and realized why he loved making them so much. They were easy. They were delicious. And most of all, they were versatile. With a family full of picky people, versatile is important.

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Campfire Favorites: Chicken Bacon Ranch Foil Packet Dinner

Summer… it’s the perfect time for campfires, grilling, and all things… well, summery. Growing up, we had these great summer dinners that were easy, no-mess, and delicious. The best part, of course, being that they were no-mess. Who really likes cleaning up after dinner when they could be enjoying an evening swim or lounging outside by a fire pit? I love foil dinners. They’re so versatile, whether you’re making them in the oven or on the grill, or even on that campfire. But I needed a new foil packet dinner to add into my repertoire, particularly one that had a few of my favorite things… like chicken, bacon, and mushrooms.

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Southwest Chicken and Rice Bake

I like easy dinners. I mean really easy dinners. With Jeffrey playing soccer non-stop, Zach having a great Music and Movement class, and all of the other day-to-day life, sometimes it is almost dinner time and I’ve forgotten to even think about dinner. It has nothing to do with me having trouble putting down the book I’m reading or anything. It’s totally everyone’s schedules. I swear.

Anyway, this dinner is so ridiculously easy that I can’t believe I didn’t make it sooner.

Start out with three-ish chicken breasts. It’s not an exact science. I used 3 because I had 3 thawed, but if they’re really big, use two. If they’re tiny, use more. You’ll also need 3 bags of Birds Eye Steamfresh Specially Seasoned Southwestern Style Rice. It is seasoned, and has bell peppers, onions, and corn already in it. You’ll also want to check into Campbell’s Great for Cooking Soups– a can of Cream of Chicken and a can of Cheddar Cheese soup are perfect. Add in a drained can of Rotel and you’re golden. I used Mild Rotel because my family just can’t take the spice, but if your family is able to handle it, by all means, load that puppy up with some Hot Rotel (or at least Original).

Cook the chicken fully, then shred it into bite-sized pieces.

Pour the still-frozen rice in and break it up. Yes, it will be a little bit icy– that’s part of how it steams. This will cook into the food when you bake the dish. Now, mix in your chicken.

You’re on the home stretch now with this dish… stir in the two great for cooking soups and the drained Rotel, then pop the casserole in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes, until the casserole is hot and bubbly.

It serves 6-8 people, and it’s so quick and easy to make that you’ll be out of the kitchen and back to reading… I mean, uh, driving the kids around to all of their stuff… in a heartbeat.

Love easy recipes? Try my Tuscan Sausage and Bean Soup, Pollo Magnifico Freezer Meal, or Hearty Cheeseburger Soup!

What’s your go-to “I forgot to cook dinner!” recipe? Share it in the comments below!