Since You Asked: Many dishes can be frozen uncooked

I'm organizing about three weeks of meals for a couple who just had twins. I think it would be helpful if some entrees were frozen or could be frozen for the family's convenience. If that's the case, should the dishes come to them cooked or uncooked? Lasagna is one item, in particular, I'd like advice on.

— Maya S., Jacksonville

Freezing meals for the family not only furnishes flexibility during this adjustment but also extends the dishes' usefulness.

Casseroles keep two to three months in the freezer, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Internet fact sheet on freezing. They also can be cooked or reheated directly from a frozen state, making it unnecessary to bake lasagna before freezing. It's important to note that cooking time of a frozen casserole is about one and a half times as long.

There are a few more benefits of assembling the lasagna and freezing it before baking. First, the pasta doesn't get as mushy. If you use enough sauce and make sure the noodles are well-covered, you don't even have to boil them first.

Second, you don't have to sacrifice your own baking dish to this charitable effort or remind the busy family to return it. Line your pan with foil before assembling the lasagna. Allow foil to drape over the pan's sides for ease of removing the casserole.

After the lasagna is frozen, remove it with the foil, wrap it well and transfer it to a large, resealable freezer bag. Make sure to instruct the recipients to place the lasagna in their own pan for cooking. This shouldn't be a problem if you use a standard size, such as 9 by 13 inches.

Remember some foods, such as dairy products, don't maintain their quality after freezing. If you use ricotta in your recipe, use whole-milk ricotta and drain it well to keep it from getting watery.

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