Casseroles are great most any time of year. They're usually fairly easy to make, they are often best when made with leftovers, they can be made in advance and cooked later and many of them freeze well. But I tend to like them best in the winter. They're often hardy, solid tucker and they make a nice change from soups and stews.
In the best casseroles, each ingredient is cooked separately to avoid either over-cooking or under-cooking the ingredients (which is why leftovers can work so... well). The baking process is intended to heat everything and let the flavors blend - not to actually cook anything.
01 of 07
Macaroni and Cheese is one of my favorite meals, so when I make it I always make more than I need and freeze half - six meals for an hour's work ain't bad at all. This is that same recipe but scaled down to produce two individual casseroles. Presented this way it's fancy enough for a birthday dinner or anniversary while still keeping the 'ole food budget in check.
02 of 07
I love roast chicken and I love chicken pot pie and the great thing about roast chicken is the leftovers make a great pot pie. Typically I'll roast the chicken for supper on Saturday, then use some of the leftover chicken to make a pot pie on Sunday. On Monday we'll eat the last of the roasted chicken and on Tuesday the last of the pot pie. So we get four delicious meals for the cost in time and effort of two.
03 of 07
This recipe for Tuna Casserole is another of those that formed, full-blown, in my mind. My mother made tuna casserole when I was a kid, but I was never a fan - too pasty, not savory enough, and I hated the potato chips on top. But this recipe, although fairly conventional, contains a number of tweaks (sour cream, Golden Mushroom soup instead of Cream of Mushroom, extra-sharp cheddar cheese) that take it over the top.
04 of 07
Although easy enough, Lasagna is sort of a hassle to make because it involves several steps and dishes. Fortunately, it freezes beautifully so I make it about once a year but enjoy it at least twice. Cut this dish in half and wrap half in a couple of layers of plastic wrap then seal in a zippered bag and freeze it for up to three months. Defrost in the refrigerator and heat it up in a microwave at medium power for 3 - 4 minutes.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Cassoulet is one of the world's classic dishes, but it's not a task taken on lightly - some recipes take up to three days to make. It's worth the effort for a special occasion but doesn't really qualify as an everyday meal. Although this quick and easy version doesn't have the depth and complexity of flavor the original does, it's become one of my favorite weekend meals.
06 of 07
Chicken Enchiladas are one of my favorite ways of using up leftover chicken - or beef or pork for that matter. It couldn't be easier to make, requiring about 30 minutes of work and 30 minutes of cooking. My pantry always has onions and bell peppers and canned tomato sauce in it, my spice cabinet usually has chile powder and cumin, and I generally have tortillas in the freezer. So all I have to do is sauté the aromatics, add the chile powder, warm the tortillas, and make the wraps before... baking them for 30 minutes.
07 of 07
Baked ziti has long been a favorite of mine. Although easy to make and delicious, it does have the drawback of getting several dishes dirty. So when America's Test Kitchen featured a one-pan recipe I paid close attention.