Make it now, Bake it Later: Dinner’s on!

18 Jan Make it now, Bake it Later: Dinner’s on!

Penne Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream

What a simple joy in life it is to come home after an action-packed day knowing there’s something satisfying, already assembled in the refrigerator, patiently waiting for you to pop in the oven and pull out for dinner, several effortless minutes later- no chopping, sautéing or assembly required. That’s right, bring on the “Make it now, Bake it Later, Dinner’s on!” recipes!

A particularly busy week chock-full of other obligations last week necessitated the call for easy entrees that could be put together in the morning and then forgotten, for the time being, in the fridge.  Hallelujah!

No worse for the wear, I waltzed into the kitchen each evening, flung open the fridge and ferried the feast onto the fire (okay, into the preheated oven) to finish, with little else to do than throw together a simple salad, slice fruit and pop open a well-deserved bottle of wine to complete the menu.  Perfect.

If you find yourself hankering for a home-cooked meal, but lacking the time and energy to pull it all together, pay it forward by making a plan for this week’s “Special of the day: Make it Now, Bake it Later: Dinner’s On!” entrees this week with recipes for Easy Enchilada Bake, Chicken Cordon Bleu and Baked Penne with Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream.  Happy Cooking (ahead)!

Easy Enchilada Bake

Easy Enchilada Bake

(serves 4-6)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound lean ground beef

¾ cup sweet onion, finely chopped

3 tablespoons chili powder, or more, to taste

½ teaspoon salt

29-ounce can tomato sauce

16-ounce package mild cheddar cheese, grated

10 yellow corn tortillas

In a medium sauté pan over medium high heat, heat olive oil and add ground beef, stirring occasionally until browned.

Add onion, chili powder, salt and tomato sauce and simmer until slightly thickened.

Spray 7 ½ inch spring form pan with nonstick cooking spray.


Corn tortilla

Enchilada sauce

Grated cheese

And repeat layering, leaving ½ inch space at top of pan.

Cover with foil and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, until heated through and bubbly.

Remove and let rest briefly.

Slice in wedges and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chili powder.


*Note: a nice addition for you olive lovers out there, would be to add 1 cup of sliced olives to the top of the enchilada bake on top of the final layer of grated cheese in the last 10 minutes of baking. Yum!


Chicken Cordon Bleu

Chicken Cordon Bleu

(serves 4)

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts

¼ pound ham,  thinly sliced

¼ pound Swiss cheese, thinly sliced

1 tablespoons butter

1 egg, beaten

¾ cup bread crumbs

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Using a rolling pin, pound chicken breasts between sheets of waxed paper to a thickness of ¾ inch.

Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise.

Layer ham over chicken portions, and then cheese.

Roll, being careful to keep ham and cheese tucked in, and secure with toothpicks.

Beat egg and place in shallow dish.

Place breadcrumbs in a second shallow dish.

Dip each chicken roll in egg to coat and roll in breadcrumbs to cover.

Brush baking dish with melted butter.

Place assembled chicken rolls in prepared baking dish.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Uncover and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, until baked through.

Serve with buttered rice.


Penne Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream

Baked Penne Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream

(serves 10-12)

*Inspired by the delicious bowtie recipe Mark and Rennae Johnson made for us out of Bon Appetit years ago.

1 pound penne pasta

1 pound mild Italian sausage

1 clove garlic

2 14.5-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon fennel seed

1 cup heavy cream

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup parmesan shreds

1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn in strips

In a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, brown sausage over medium heat until no longer pink.

Add garlic and cook until softened, stirring occasionally.

Add tomatoes, fennel seed, cream and salt, stirring to combine.

Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente, according to package instructions.


Brush 9 x 13 inch baking dish with olive oil.

Pour cooked penne in baking dish.

Pour sauce over pasta.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove cover and bake pasta in preheated oven for 30 minutes until heated through.

Remove from oven and top with parmesan and fresh basil strips.


Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at

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