Are you thinking about cooking up a new five-star dish for each meal, every single day? Let’s be real: ain’t nobody got time for that. So instead of wasting all that extra time (that you clearly don’t have), put your leftovers to good use.
“Casseroles are great dishes to make from scratch or for using up leftovers. Use up some of the vegetables you have in the fridge that may not be fresh enough for a salad,” Jewell explained. “Possibly some root vegetables in the pantry you just aren’t sure what to do with.”
At the most basic level, turning your leftovers into a casserole is simple:
What you need
- 1 lightly greased baking dish
- Cheese, to taste
- Breadcrumbs, to taste
What you do
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Throw leftovers into greased dish, then sprinkle cheese and breadcrumbs on top.
- Bake until cheese melts and leftovers are warm.
It seems almost too easy, doesn’t it? Here’s how to really step up your casserole-making game:
There’s nothing quite like unleashing your inner artist when you’re cooking… or re-purposing your cooked food. Don’t be afraid to divert from basic casseroles and get a bit creative. There are a couple of creative casseroles out there already to get your wheels turning.
Spaghetti-pizza casserole: “Put your leftover noodles and sauce into the casserole dish, top with your favourite cheese and some sliced chorizo salami or wagyu pepperoni, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, bake and you have yourself a ‘pizza pasta’ of all things! Best of both worlds.”–Jewell
Leftover steak and stout pie: “Adding a pint of stout to leftover steak makes a tasty steak and stout pie the next day!”–Wildman
Fajita casserole: “The fun in this casserole is using the tortillas like lasagna noodles and layering all the goodness in between. I opt for a mascarpone cheese that I kick up with a chipotle pepper puree, to ‘re-sauce’ all the goodies and make it nice and moist. Creamy, smokey, touch of spice… perfect.”–Jewell
Ratatouille: “Leftover ratatouille makes a great frittata [casserole]. Dollops of fresh pesto finish the dish perfectly.”–Wildman
How to deal with curry
“For curry of any sort, I go for a one-pot wonder, everything in and bake. Amp it up with some quinoa, chickpeas, more coconut milk and lime leaves (lime juice) to brighten the whole dish,” said Jewell.
Don’t fear citrus
According to Gulyas, “Citrus goes a loooong way! Even the richest and most decadent casseroles need balance, and one way to brighten up any dish is with a good hit of fresh lemon juice and zest.”
So, depending on what kind of leftovers you’re dealing with, a touch of lime or lemon juice can make all the difference. Bring on the freshness.
Sauce it up
“Never skimp on the sauce!” said Gulyas. “There is nothing worse than a dry casserole, so remember, casseroles soak up a lot of moisture, and if you want to enjoy it for a few days after, (which I believe is the whole point of the casserole in the first place) making it saucy enough is key.”
Sauce is exactly what you need to make a casserole that isn’t stereotypically dry and burnt. In most cases, the more sauce you add, the better.
Use fresh herbs
Gulyas is a firm believer in adding herbs to your casserole to make your leftovers seem fresh again. “Whenever possible, go fresh, and unless it’s thyme or rosemary, try to add the more delicate ones at the last minute so that they don’t lose their flavour and turn brown. You can even sprinkle some freshly chopped herbs on top right before serving.”
Add some colour
“I always have a bag of frozen peas on hand,” said Gulyas. “Some of the classic casseroles didn’t have a whole lot of veggies or colour, so peas are a great way to add a pop of colour, and a hint of sweetness.”
“For healthier options, thin slices of firm veggies like kohlrabi, sweet potatoes, rutabaga or turnips can be used in place of noodles, and almond pesto in place of creamy cheese sauce,” Gulyas explained. “Remember to have fun! Casseroles were invented for the purpose of giving you a break, so try not to put too much pressure on yourself!”