If you are looking for an easy, cheesy beef casserole recipe that is not only healthy but also freezer friendly, look no further! Not only is this delicious, but it is a fantastic meal prep recipe, it tastes even better reheated the next day! You are going to want to add this zucchini & ground beef orzo casserole recipe to your meal plan this week!
How to Make this Cheesy Zucchini & Ground Beef Casserole?
- 1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3 cups Zucchini, sliced into circles, (about 2 large zucchinis) or (450 grams)
- ⅛ tsp Salt
- ¼ tsp Black Pepper
- 16 oz 90% Ground Beef
- 2 tbsp Shallots, diced, (about 1 shallot) or (40 grams)
- 2 cloves Fresh Garlic, diced, (10 grams)
- ¼ tsp Italian Seasoning
- 1½ cups No Salt Added Diced Tomatoes, (about 1 16 oz can)
- ¾ cup Ricotta Cheese, (180 grams)
- ½ cup Cheddar Cheese, freshly shredded, (30 grams)
- 1 cup Chickpea Rice, (100 grams)
- 1 tsp Red Pepper Flake
- 1 tbsp Scallions, sliced, optional. (about stalk) or (10 grams)
- Heat a large saute pan to medium heat. Once the pan is hot add the oil to the pan with the sliced zucchini. Season the zucchin with the salt and pepper and cook the zucchini for 5-7 miutes until they begin to soften and turn lightly browned. Flipping every few minutes. (If your pan is not large enough you may need to work in batches. Cooking half the zucchini at a time.)
- Once the zucchini is cooked remove it from the pan and place them in a large bowl.
- Pre-heat oven to 350°
- While the oven is heating cook your ground beef. In the same large pan you cooked the zucchini in, add the grond beef, shallots, and garlic. Using a heavy spatular break up the ground beef, mixing in with the shallots and garlic. Season with the italian seasoning. Cook stirring for 7-10 minutes, until the beef is mostly cooked.
- Once the beef is almost cooked thru, add the ground beef into the large bowl with the sliced zucchini. Then add the: tomatoes, ricotta, cheddar, chickpea rice, and red pepper flake. Stir everything together until well combined. (If you do not have chickpea rice you can use: orzo or any kind of rice.)
- Prepare a baking dish by either lining it with pachment paper, tin foil, or non stick spray. Then scoop the cheesy, beef, and zucchini mixture into the casserole dish.
- Cook at 350° for 30 minutes.
- Once done remove from the oven and garnish with the optional scallions. Slice into six servings and Enjoy!
Trick if you plan to make this casserole days ahead of time, or plan to freeze.
- Lining the casserole dish with tin foil or parchment paper, with a little overhang, will allow you to remove the recipe from you casserole dish. You will want to wait for the casserole to cool completely and allow the casserole to firm up. Then using the overhang you can pull the recipe out of your dish. This will allow you to continue using your casserole dish if you are making this recipe days ahead of time, or even plan on storing in the freezer. Wrap the casserole in tin foil and store in the fridge or freezer.
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NOTES FOR MEAL PLANNING:
Meal planning doesn’t have to be hard or take a lot of time. In fact, meal planning can be fun when you are provided with easy new recipes each week. Meal Planning can also help save money, prevent food waste, and save you time.
The best things about this recipe is: it is super easy to make, its a fantastic freezer friendly recipe, is great for meal prep, and can easily be adjusted for those counting macros.
If you would like to lean more about meal planning and putting your own personal plan together click HERE.
NOTES FOR MEAL PREP:
When meal prepping recipes it is important to think about the best way to store and reheat your finished meals:
Storing this zucchini & ground beef orzo casserole in the fridge will last 5-7 days.
There are a few ways you can choose to store this recipe in your fridge:
- You can store as one large meal or as individual servings.
- I always prefer individual servings. This allows me to only reheat the number of servings that will be eaten.
- However, if you know you will eat the entire recipe when it is time to be reheated, go ahead and store it as one large serving.
For fridge storage you can use plastic containers, glass food containers, or the casserole dish it was served in. I prefer to use glass container, as this allows me to reheat and eat the recipe right out of the same container. Which in turn saves me time, dirty dishes, and makes clean up easier. It also saves on waste: eventually having to replace the plastic containers.
Be sure to allow the recipe to cool completely before closing the container or placing in the fridge. If you close the container or place the recipe in the fridge before it has cooled you could have built up condensation within your container, thus watering down the recipe.
Trick, if you are making this casserole days ahead of time or plan to freeze:
Lining the casserole dish with tin foil or parchment paper, with a little overhang, will allow you to remove the recipe from you casserole dish. You will want to wait for the casserole to cool completely and allow the casserole to firm up. Then using the overhang you can pull the recipe out of your dish. This will allow you to continue using your casserole dish if you are making this recipe days ahead of time, or even plan on storing in the freezer.
TIPS FOR RE-HEATING AFTER BEING IN THE FRIDGE:
- If reheating as an individual serving, microwave for 90-120 seconds. You may want to mix up a large serving half way thru to ensure the center gets warm.
- If reheating as a one large meal, I recommend reheating in the oven. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, cook in the original casserole dish for 20-25 minutes covered with tin foil.
This is the perfect freezer friendly recipe. When frozen this cheesy zucchini & ground beef orzo casserole will keep for 6 months.
There are a few ways that you can choose to freeze this recipe:
- Freeze as individual portions, one serving per each freezer safe zip lock bag. Storing individullly allows you to reheat as many servings as you wish.
- However, you can also store the entire recipe. To do this you will want to make sure to line your casserole dish with tin foil or parchment paper. Once the casserole has cooled you can pull the recipe out of the casserole and wrap it in tin foil to freeze. I also like to add an additional layer of protection and place the foil wrapped casserole into a large freezer safe zip lock bag.
- Or, my favorite way to freeze meals is in souper cubes. These cubes are reusable, freezer safe, and store the perfect serving size.
Be sure to remove all the air from the zip lock bags and allow the recipe to cool completely before placing in the freezer. Failing to allow the recipe to cool completely could result in freezer burn.
Be sure to label your frozen meal with the name of the recipe and the date you cooked it. I like to use a piece of masking tape to write on. You don’t want to forget about the delicious recipe you have on hand!
TIPS FOR RE-HEATING AFTER BEING FROZEN:
Going straight from the freezer to the microwave or oven you will want to remove the recipe from the frozen container. You can not microwave zip lock bags, a glass container could crack going from such cold temps to such warm temps, and super cubes are not microwave or oven safe.
- As individual servings, I recommend reheating on the stove and not the microwave. Frozen recipes always defrost better this way. Cook in a medium pot or pan at medium heat for 8-10 minutes until the recipe has defrosted and is warmed thru. You may want to add a tiny bit of water to help loosen up the sauce and ingredients. Adding 1 teaspoon at a time, you don’t want to water down the recipe.
- Or pull the number of servings you are looking to eat from the freezer the night before. Then store in the fridge to defrost overnight. Once defrosted follow the instructions above for reheating from the fridge.
- If frozen as an entire recipe, I recommend pulling from the freezer the night before to allow the meal to defrost. Then reheat in the stove following the directions above for re-heating from the fridge.
NOTES FOR COUNTING MACROS:
The majority of the protein in this recipe comes from the beef. You can easily adjust the amount of beef without changing the flavor of this recipe too much. However, it is important to remember that beef has fat. The beef that I used in this recipe was 90% lean.
- For every 1 ounce of beef you can increase or decrease the protein macro by 5.5 grams. The same amount of 90% lean beef also contains 2.8 grams of fat.
So go ahead, add as much or as little protein as you would like to this recipe. Keeping in mind the amount of fat. You can choose to use a leaner ground beef to reduce the amount of fat, see those notes below.
You can adjusted the amount of carbohydrates based on the amount and/or type of rice you use. For this recipe I used a chickpea rice, which is similar to an orzo.
- 25 grams (1/4 cup) of chickpea rice has 85 calories, 15 carbs, only 1.5 gram of fat, and 5.5 grams of protein.
- If you can’t find or do not have chickpea rice, you could use orzo pasta, which is very similar to the chickpea rice: 25 grams (1/4 cup) has: 78 calories, similar carbs 15.5, only .2 grams of fat, and less protein with 2.5 grams.
- If you are looking to increase the carbs I would recommend using a more traditional rice, 25 grams (1/4 cup) of white jasmine rice has 170 calories, 40 carbs, 0 fat, and 3 grams of protein.
- Although, if you are looking to decrease the carbs, you could choose to remove the rice or pasta all together!
There are so many new types of rice and pasta out there, choose the one you like the best and use the amount that fits your macros goals.
This easy zucchini & ground beef orzo casserole does have a decent about of fat using the 90% lean ground beef.
If you are looking to decrease the fat in this recipe you could easily choose a higher percentage lean ground beef.
- The 90% lean ground beef I used has 2.8 grams of fat per every 1 ounce
- For every 1 ounce 92% lean beef there is only 2 grams of fat
- For every 1 ounce 98% lean ground beef there is .6 grams of fat
This allows you to decrease the fat as much as your you want and your macros require.
Although, if you are looking to increase the fat you could also go with a higher fat ground beef.
- A typical ground beef not labeled as being lean could have as much as 12 grams of fat per 1 ounce. It will be important to check the label.
However, if you are counting macros, and making adjustments to this zucchini & ground beef orzo casserole you will want to keep in mind the number of servings you are making.
Looking for another freezer friendly recipe?
Check out my One Pot Beef Stroganoff Recipe recipe.