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Tips on making Lasagna to be frozen in portions?

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Esteemed Chowhound Cooks:

I'd like to make a bunch of individual lasagna portions for freezing. My own homemade convenience food. I've been buying the frozen boxed lasagna portions, Amy's, Whole Foods, et al. I'm sure I can make my own tastier and less expensive.

Any tips on method, best containers. Should lasagna be assembled in the individual freezer containers? Or should I assemble in a big pan and slice up portions? Bake now or later?

I plan to make my lasagna with ground beef and ricotta and a bit of grated parm. No mozzarella.
After I get the freezing technique down, I'd like to make a batch with zucchini or chopped greens.

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  1. My wife and I do this regularly: make a lasagna, assemble it normally in a large pan, bake it (usually eat some that night for dinner), chill it overnight in the fridge, cut it into portions, wrap in foil, put it into a ziploc bag and freeze it. That's it. Lasanga is particularly forgiving as a frozen item. We warm it back up in either the microwave (sans foil) or the toaster oven (preferred method if we're willing to wait).

    1. Jfood pretty much followed ccbweb's method except he wrapped the portions in plastic wrap first (it was easier to peel the plastic wrap off the frozen lasagne) and he does not own a TO, used a regular oven. The family calls these "pasta bricks". There are always 3-4 portions in the basement freezer.

      But a couple of years ago jfood bought a foodsaver. Now he bakes the lasagne that he wants (many versions to choose from) and freezes the portions in the foodsaver bags. 25 minutes in boiling water and you have piping hot moist lasagne.

      One head's up. He once added whole basil leaves and this was not good upon reheat. Nice idea, bad execution.

      1. Yes, I agree!! Make it in a large pan and cook then cook, cool & slice into individual portions & freeze..I've tried all ways and I too wrap in plastic wrap first then place into ziploc bags for freezing portions..Takes up less space in freezer this way then putting into containers..Take out & nuke or put into oven to reheat. Ever wonder why all the freezer low cal meals contain pasta? It's because as someone else mentioned they are so forgiving ....

        1. I do this for my mother all the time so she'll have some homecooked meals in her freezer.

          I agree with chilling overnight (easier to cut), wrapping in plastic wrap (easier to remove), and then wrapping in foil (easier to stack).

          1 Reply
          1. re: JoanN

            That's what I would do! Isn't the idea of freezing lasagna so you work once, eat many times? I think cooking lasagna in individual portions would cause too much work, so just make a large dish, eat some for dinner, then wrap it all up for later. Yum!

          2. If you alternate the noodles length-wise in the pan one layer and cross-wise the next layer, it seems to hold its shape better when cut. Since you're freezing the whole pan, let it cool a bit and it will firm up, additionally helping with the cutting part.

            1. I concur with the previous rec's- same method I use (although I generally get one fresh dinner out of it first... there're only two of us, so there's plenty left from a 9X13!).

              Just wanted to let you know that ours in generally meatless, and I've succesfully used tons of spinach, mushrooms, zuchini, eggplant (salted and drained), and whatever other veggies are in the garden/crisper. I've never had any trouble with them reheating well, as long as they aren't large pieces (as Jfood mentioned with his basil leaves).

              1. I remember reading a tip somewhere to make small lasagne, you could use a loaf pan, and layer single strips--3 or 4 per pan. Each pan would make about 2 servings.

                1. One other point that happened to jfood last go 'round.

                  He was staring at his roasting pan and the amount of noodles cooling on the wax paper and decided to go for it. The roasting pan is so much deeper than the normal pyrex he'd been using since he was a pup that it was like a new candy store. It could handle five layers of noodles plus filling. It was a Lasagne on Steroids when it came out of the oven.

                  And the pieces that jfood could cut the next day ranged from petit to large. It sorta reminded him of when Swansons introduced the "Hungy Man" TV dinner in the 60's.

                  Something to consider if you are going for HUGE.

                  1. I find that ricotta can get watery in frozen lasagna. Try the Tuscan method, making a rich meat sauce, then a white sauce. Grate a bunch of parmigiano reggiano. Use barilla noodles (no need to cook them first) and layer the noodles, the meat sauce, the white sauce and the parm, starting with a bit of sauce on the bottom, and finishing with the parm. I rec. wrapping and freezing the pan and baking later for a crowd or bake, cool and wrap portions in recycled take out containers. Add a little mascarpone to the white sauce for knock your socks off taste. fayefood.com

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: fayehess

                      on the ricotta issue, drain it first and use whole milk not part skim.

                      1. re: jfood

                        I use a substitution I learned from Cook's Illustrated, cottage cheese and an egg (I whiz them together with my stick blender). Swap the cottage cheese for the ricotta in equal amounts and add the egg. It doesn't get watery and, in fact, helps hold the whole thing together.

                    2. I cook a large pan, cool overnight, slice into individual portions and freeze those individual portions, spaced out, on a flat-resting baking sheet. When the bricks are frozen solid (about 6 hours) scoop them up with a spatula, toss them in a freezer bag, wash the baking sheet and call it a day. It takes longer, but it saves the loads of plastic wrap or foil that I'd have to use. The extra foil/plastic layer may be protective against freezer burn if you plan to have it stored for a long time (e.g. over 6 months), but I just make sure to keep the air pressed out of my freezer bags to prevent freezer burn and to eat what I freeze in a timely way.

                      When it comes to reheating, I just take a brick from the bag, put it in a microwavable container, and lunch is ready on those "no brain" days. (Since I don't keep things around long enough to get freezer burn, maybe those days are more often than I'd like.) :)

                      For the batch with zucchini or greens, my recommendation is to cook to evaporate liquid or squeeze dry (e.g. defrosted frozen spinach) as much as possible. Then cook/squeeze a little more :) The freezing process often causes additional liquid to be released once thawed and heated, so to minimize that as much as possible, I'd make sure the vegetables are prepped appropriately.

                      1. OP here. Thank to all for the replies!! I feel much more confident and will let you know how it goes.