If you’re looking for the recipe of the week, scroll on down for Baked Italian Pasta, my favorite easy meal to make for others.

A few weeks ago, I found out that one of my close friends had just had surgery – and didn’t tell me. I was concerned – and a little bit hurt. Not surprised, though.

  • Concerned, because this friend has three young children who, I would imagine, make recovery from surgery more difficult. Plus, it just sounded painful!
  • Hurt, because if I’d known, I would have offered to watch her kids. And though she probably would not have taken me up on that offer, I would have insisted on at least bringing her dinner.
  • Not surprised, because my friend never asks for help. And, as a matter of fact, often refuses it when it’s offered.

While it’s certainly admirable to be self-sufficient and independent, I appreciate friends who let me in and let me help.

In other, pre-crazy Tom Cruise words: Help me help you!

I love helping friends when the opportunity arises. More often than not, sharing a helping experience – from schlepping moving boxes to last-minute babysitting to searching for a lost dog – creates a deeper bond than we had before. After all, admitting that you need help is opening yourself up to a certain level of intimacy.

Plus, friends have helped me several times – in a big way – and I’m still so very grateful for that. I think of friends watching Annalyn just last week while I attended a conference. I think of a friend who, several years ago, mailed me a gift card after I admitted that the ends that had barely been meeting…weren’t anymore. And I think of the friends who, with just a few hours notice, let us spend the night in their guest room (with our CATS, even) when our heater broke during the coldest week of winter.

I love it when friends accept an offer of help. It makes me feel good to help them. And one of my favorite ways to help friends in most any difficult situation is to take them dinner.

My go-to meal for new moms, grieving families and injured friends is baked pasta. It’s super easy to make, it travels well, and it’s simple to fix later. Also, I typically split the recipe and make a pan for us and a pan to take to someone else.

I’ve also recently taken chili to my friend Kimi, who has been down and out with a badly broken leg. And if she’ll let me, I’m planning to take her some pulled pork (recipe to come soon) next week.

Do you ever take meals to friends? What meals do you usually fix?

Baked Italian Pasta

1 box of mostaciolli (or penne or ziti)
1 lb. ground beef, browned and seasoned
Chopped onion
3-4 cups spaghetti sauce (I use Prego)
2-3 cups shredded mozzarella

Boil, rinse and drain the pasta. If you’re going to freeze this dish, only cook it to al dente. Otherwise, cook it as much as you want (personally, I’m not a fan of crunchy pasta).

Saute the onions with the ground beef. Season with garlic and basil (I suppose fresh would be ideal, but I always use dried.), then add sauce. Use whatever amount you need to create the sauce consistency you like. My husband prefers his baked pasta on the saucy side, so I err on the side of more sauce.

Mix the drained pasta with the meat sauce. Pour into 9×13 pan (or two 8×8 pans, if you’re sharing one of the meals with a friend). Cover with cheese. Typically, I use regular shredded mozzarella, but if I actually plan in advance, I get Four Cheese Italian. And YUM. It makes all the difference in the world.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with Caesar salad and bread (both easily transported sides!).

A few other tips for taking meals to friends:

  • Always use disposable dishes. The last thing your friend wants, whether she’s caring for a newborn or hobbling around on a broken leg, is to return a bunch of Pyrex platters.
  • Also, take paper plates and utensils with the meal so your friend doesn’t have to worry about doing – or ignoring – dishes.
  • Finally, if you’re coordinating several meals for a friend, consider spacing them out every other day or so. Most easily portable meals (a.k.a. casseroles) yield plenty of leftovers, so don’t overcrowd your friend’s fridge with your generosity!

Have you ever had meals delivered to you? What was your favorite to receive? My friends brought me meals after Annalyn came home from the hospital, and my favorite was chicken enchiladas…and the chocolate chip cookie dough that I just happened to leave out when I told Mark what our friend brought!

This post will be linked to Mouthwatering Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Tuesdays at the Table, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, What’s Cooking Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesday, Fabulous Food Fridays, Foodie Friday, Grocery Cart Challenge, Friday Firsts and Food on Fridays. It will also be linked to Debbie Does Dinner and Presto Pasta Nights.

{Don’t forget to come back this afternoon for the first of our Week of Giveaways!}

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