This Baked Spaghetti Casserole is layered with a rich, meaty sauce, dollops of creamy ricotta cheese, and plenty of melted mozzarella. A comforting, nostalgic meal that is guaranteed family-friendly!
I’m kickin’ it old school today. I’m talking classic, blast from the past, down-home, Baked Spaghetti Casserole. There’s nothing fancy about this recipe but it is one of the most family-friendly, crowd pleasing dishes in existence.
I think I was about 13 years old when I made my first attempt at spaghetti casserole and it was as delicious then as it is now. I’ve made some small, but important, changes to my recipe over the years that make it different than other popular versions I’ve seen. I think they also make it pretty darn amazing.
Save this one to your list of recipes to bake and take to a school function, sports banquet, or potluck. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be asked for the recipe and possibly hugged and kissed a couple of times.
Table of contents
- Pasta – I always break my spaghetti noodles in half, making them a little easier to serve when baked in casserole form.
- Meat – 90% to 92% lean ground beef.
- Yellow onion and minced garlic
- Seasoning – Italian seasoning, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
- Sauce – The sauce is comprised of a jar of your favorite brand of marinara sauce (my fav at the moment is Rao’s Marinara) and a can of undrained diced tomatoes.
- Fresh herbs – A little fresh Italian parsley goes a long way to brighten up the sauce.
- Egg – A lightly beaten adds body and a little substance to the pasta.
- Cheese – Part-skim ricotta cheese, shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, and finely shredded Parmesan cheese.
- Olive oil
Baked Spaghetti Variations
- Meat – Add flavor with ground Italian sausage or lighten it up with ground turkey.
- Veggies – I love adding diced bell pepper with the onions for great flavor. Mushrooms are a great addition too!
- Herbs – Dried herbs pack a big flavor punch but if I happen to have fresh basil on hand, I like to toss some in to the sauce or use it as a garnish.
How to Make Baked Spaghetti Casserole
This is a quick overview of how to make this recipe. You’ll find detailed instructions in the recipe card at the end of this post.
Prepare the Pasta and Meat Sauce
Start by boiling the spaghetti noodles in salted water about 1 to 2 minutes shy of package directions.
- While the pasta is boiling, cook the ground beef with the onion in a large skillet, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks. Drain off the grease and add the garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir for a minute or two.
- Add the marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, and parsley.
- Simmer the sauce for about 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
- Drain the cooked spaghetti well and return it to the warm, empty pot (off the heat). Add the olive oil and toss until well coated. Add the lightly beaten egg and Parmesan cheese and toss again.
Assemble the Casserole
- Coat a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and spread half the spaghetti mixture in the dish.
- Top with half of the meat sauce (be sure to save enough sauce for the final layer).
- Drop small dollops of the ricotta (using the whole amount) over the top to evenly cover the casserole.
- Top with half of the mozzarella cheese.
Bake the Casserole
- Repeat the layers with the remaining spaghetti, meat sauce, mozzarella and finish with the remaining Parmesan.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from the oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
To help ensure your cheesy casseroles will stay cheesy, coat the underside of the foil with nonstick cooking spray before covering the dish. This helps prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil when you remove it.
Storage and Reheating Tips
Spaghetti Casserole stores and reheats exceptionally well. It’s one of those pasta dishes that may even taste better the next day.
- Store – Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days.
- Reheat – Warm leftovers in the microwave or in a pot on the stove over low heat. Add a splash of water to loosen it up, if needed.
- Refrigerate – The unbaked casserole can be covered with foil and refrigerated for up to two days before baking. You will need to add about 15 minutes to the baking time if it is chilled when it goes in the oven.
- Freeze – Assemble the casserole in a freezer-safe baking dish (disposable foil pans are a great choice). Cover the unbaked casserole with two layers of foil and freeze it for up to 3 months. Allow the casserole to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking. If baking from frozen, you may need to add 45 minutes to an hour to the baking time.
Baked Spaghetti Casserole
- 8 ounces spaghetti noodles, broken in half
- 1 pound 90 to 92% lean ground beef
- ½ cup diced white or yellow onion
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 24 ounces marinara sauce , your favorite brand
- 15 ounce can diced tomatoes, don't drain
- ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ¾ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, (about 8 ounces) divided
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat the bottom of a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Prepare the Pasta and Meat Sauce
- Boil the spaghetti in salted water about 1 to 2 minutes shy of package directions.
- Meanwhile, cook the ground beef with the onion in a large skillet over MEDIUM heat, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks. When no pink remains, drain off the grease. Return the pan to the heat and add the garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir for a minute or two. Add the marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, and parsley. Reduce the heat to LOW and allow the sauce to simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Drain the cooked spaghetti well and return it to the warm, empty pot (off the heat). Add the olive oil and using tongs, toss the spaghetti until well coated with oil. Add the lightly beaten egg and ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese and toss again until well distributed.
Assemble the Casserole
- Spread half the spaghetti mixture in the prepared dish and top with half of the meat sauce (be sure to save enough sauce for the final layer). Drop small dollops of the ricotta (using the whole amount) over the top to evenly cover the casserole. Top with half of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat with the remaining spaghetti, meat sauce, mozzarella and finish with the remaining Parmesan.
- Coat the underside of a piece of foil with nonstick cooking spray and cover the dish, coated side down. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes or until bubbly.
- Remove from the oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.
This post was originally published on March 24, 2014. It has been updated with new text and images.