Freezer meal prep is a lifesaver! This is the first edition of a series that I plan to continue for as long as you enjoy it. I’m kicking things off with what to do with ground beef. It’s a grocery staple in our home and you will quickly see why we love it so much. In this post, I will teach you how to take ground beef and turn it into 3 delicious freezer -safe dishes: meat sauce, beef & phyllo turnovers, and keftedes (Greek meatballs).
Watch the Video Tutorial Here:
Let’s start with one of my favorite things in my freezer: MEATBALLS. In Greek, these are known as keftedes, and they’re oh so delicious! They’re usually served as an appetizer alongside dolmadakia (grape leaves) and tzatziki.
Meatballs (keftedes) Saganaki in No-Time:
However, there are so many more ways to use them. I love to pull them out of the freezer and arrange them onto a baking tray, then lightly brush with olive oil and pop them under the broiler until they’re golden. It usually takes about 15 minutes. Afterward, I pour some pasta sauce (either homemade or store-bought), crumble some feta on top and bake at 450 °F until nice and bubbly. About 25 minutes or so… Then, I garnish with either parsley or sliced scallions, and dinner is served! Some hearty bread is usually served alongside this Meatballs Saganaki to soak up that luscious sauce or I sometimes make some pasta. Always a hit with everyone in the house and as long as the meatballs are ready to go, all it takes is a few minutes of prep and a restaurant-quality meal will be on the table.
Here’s a much better photo 😉
Can I make the meatballs with any ground meat?
Yes! I always have some lean ground beef in the freezer but, you can surely use ground lamb, turkey, or even chicken.
Serve the keftedes lightly fried with some tzatziki for the perfect party appetizer.
Next, we will make some Meat Sauce, also known as “Saltsa Keemas”, in Greek.
I pretty much make this dish at least once a week. I love it because it is so versatile. One recipe can easily be turned into so many dishes:
- Use it as a pasta sauce.
- Turn it into a stew by adding in some potatoes and veggies.
- Use it as a filling for turnovers and savory pies
- Make pastitsio and moussaka with it.
- Make some burritos with it.
- Create delicious breakfast omelet rolls. (recipe coming soon!)
- Stuff veggies then roast them
I will stop here, but, I’m sure you get the picture.
My son spent a year away from home studying in Dallas and anytime he came to visit, I had a few containers of this sauce ready for him (frozen) to take back to his apartment. It was and still is a lifesaver and one of my favorite recipes.
Trust me when I tell you that you will wish you made more! Take out all of your large pots and get some ground beef ready. The remaining ingredients are just basic pantry staples:
- canned tomatoes (any kind as long as they’re plain and unseasoned, I like to puree them anyway)
- salt and pepper
- a pinch of sugar
- olive oil
It takes the same amount of time to make 3 batches that it takes to make one so, why not?
How thick should the sauce be?
Personally, I prefer to cook it down until it is very thick. Most if not all of the liquid should evaporate. You can always add more liquid afterward. It will take up less space in the freezer and you can use it straight away in pastitsio, moussaka, and as a filling for savory pies.
Once it cools completely, transfer it into freezer-safe containers and store in your freezer for up to 3 months.
Last, but definitely not least are these flaky beef turnovers. I’ve made them at least once a week for the past month. Almost everyone who has tried them has said the same thing: “they taste like pizza!”
How to make these Turnovers:
This recipe begins with properly thawed out phyllo pastry. If you’ve been reading my blog or watching my YouTube videos for a while, you have probably heard me say this too many times… I will have to quickly mention it again because skipping this step will lead to a huge mess and phyllo in the garbage.:
Phyllo Thawing Instructions:
Phyllo pastry is sold in the freezer section so, it should be thawed in the refrigerator (in its packaging) overnight.
An hour or two before working with it, allow it to sit (in its packaging) at room temperature. That’s it! As long as you follow these two very simple steps, your phyllo experience will be a positive one and you will not be afraid to create hundreds (maybe thousands) of delicious creations.
Cut the phyllo into 2 or three equal portions and work with one portion at a time. Keep the other two covered with a slightly damp towel to prevent them from drying out.
Drizzle some melted butter on 2 phyllo sheets and stack them on top of each other.
Place a teaspoonful of the meat sauce on the bottom of the strips and top with some feta or mozzarella cheese.
Fold it upwards like you would fold a flag and place the triangles on a baking tray that has been lined with parchment paper.
You do not have to brush the tops with butter. If you have some butter left over, then go ahead and use it to brush the tops of the turnovers. Then, allow it to freeze and harden before wrapping with plastic wrap.
Wrap the trays with plastic wrap and freeze up to 3 months.
When ready to serve, brush the turnovers with butter and bake at 350 °F until golden. About 45 minutes.
These are perfect as a party appetizer or served alongside soup, salad, or even creamy tzatziki sauce
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- For the Meatballs:
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 2 small onions, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 bunch parsley (1/2 cup chopped)
- 1 and ½ cups unseasoned bread crumbs
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese, optional
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- For the Meat Sauce:
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
- 1 (16 ounces) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, cilantro or basil
- 1 cup of water
- For the Turnovers:
- Meat Sauce
- 1 and 1/2 pounds phyllo, thawed and at room temperature
- 1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted
- mozzarella cheese cut into chunks
- To Make the Meatballs:
- Chop the garlic in the food processor until minced. Add the parsley and pulse until finely chopped.
- Add the onions to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
- Whisk the milk and egg together.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the meatball ingredients and knead well to combine and evenly distribute everything.
- Form golf-sized meatballs and place on a baking tray. Transfer to the freezer until they are solid and then transfer them to freezer-safe bags. They will keep fresh for up to 3 months.
- For the Meat Sauce:
- Begin by combining the chopped onion and olive oil in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes or until soft and golden. Add the grated garlic and warm through for a few seconds.
- Add the ground beef and mix well over high heat.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Mix to combine.
- Pour the cup of water over everything and mix one more time.
- Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened to the consistency that you prefer. You may cook it longer if you like a more concentrated, thick meat sauce.
- Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and cool completely. Transfer to freezer-safe containers and freeze for up to 3 months.
- For the Turnovers:
- Cut the phyllo in half while it is still in the package. Alternatively, cut it into 3 pieces.
- Keep a lightly damp towel with a dry kitchen towel handy to keep the phyllo covered so that it does not dry out and crumble. Cover the phyllo first with the dry towel and then with the damp towel.
- Layer 2 strips of phyllo drizzling each layer with some melted butter.
- Place a heaping tablespoon of the meat sauce on the bottom and top with a few chunks of mozzarella. Fold flag style and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Continue to do this until all of the meat sauce and phyllo is finished. This batch makes about 12 large turnovers. You can also make these small appetizer-sized like my Tiropita/Cheese Pie recipe.
- Brush the top of each turnover with the melted butter.
- Wrap with plastic and freeze up to 3 months.