Spaghetti Casserole

By Ann Fulton

Saucy, meaty, cheesy, and delicious, this make-ahead casserole is a longtime favorite that's perfect for family dinners, casual entertaining, potlucks, and anytime you need to take a meal to a friend. 
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Saucy, meaty, cheesy, and delicious, this make-ahead casserole is a longtime favorite that’s perfect for family dinners, casual entertaining, potlucks, and anytime you need to take a meal to a friend. 

 

My clearest memories of this spaghetti casserole is eating it in the days after my first son was born.

Appreciating the sleep-deprived state of very new moms–who could hardly take a shower, let alone cook a meal–my mother-in-law delivered a casserole the day we returned from the hospital. My husband and I ate the spaghetti for days in a row, and it just kept tasting better and better!

Spaghetti casserole is one of those recipes that has truly stood the test of time and been passed among countless recipe boxes. The tried-and-true recipe was given to me by my mother-in-law as a newlywed. She had gotten it from Eileen, her long-time neighbor, and we all continued to share when the recipe was inevitably requested. 

Like lasagna (but even easier), the recipe requires some prep–boiling the noodles, simmering the meaty sauce, and then layering these components in the baking dish with the cheese. Once assembled, the casserole may be baked right away or refrigerated for later. The spaghetti casserole freezes well too.

Perfect for family dinners, potlucks, and anytime you need a meal to take to a friend, the recipe fills a 9×13 pan and tastes great leftover. A green salad and loaf of bread complete the meal beautifully.

More recently, my family has enjoyed the spaghetti with Quick Collard Greens instead of a salad. Parmesan Garlic Bread is a longtime favorite as well, and I like that the spread can be prepared well in advance. (When grilling season arrives, know that the cheesy spread will even make leftover hot dog rolls taste great!)

For those who enjoy seeing me make the recipe, a quick video and photo illustration follow. If you make the spaghetti casserole, please come back and comment or take a photo and tag me on Facebook or Instagram. I always appreciate the feedback! 

 
Saucy, meaty, cheesy, and delicious, this make-ahead casserole is a longtime favorite that's perfect for family dinners, casual entertaining, potlucks, and anytime you need to take a meal to a friend. 

Start by browning the ground beef and onion.

Saucy, meaty, cheesy, and delicious, this make-ahead casserole is a longtime favorite that's perfect for family dinners, casual entertaining, potlucks, and anytime you need to take a meal to a friend. 

Next add the tomatoes with their juices, spaghetti sauce, mushrooms, and seasonings. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat and maintain a gentle simmer for 20 minutes.

Saucy, meaty, cheesy, and delicious, this make-ahead casserole is a longtime favorite that's perfect for family dinners, casual entertaining, potlucks, and anytime you need to take a meal to a friend. 

The recipe calls for breaking the noodles, which makes the finished casserole easier to serve and eat. I like to do this, but if you forget, don’t worry.

Saucy, meaty, cheesy, and delicious, this make-ahead casserole is a longtime favorite that's perfect for family dinners, casual entertaining, potlucks, and anytime you need to take a meal to a friend. 

Once the sauce has simmered and thickened slightly, stir in the cooked and drained noodles.

Saucy, meaty, cheesy, and delicious, this make-ahead casserole is a longtime favorite that's perfect for family dinners, casual entertaining, potlucks, and anytime you need to take a meal to a friend. 

After mixing the cooked spaghetti into the sauce, transfer half to the baking dish, and then layer with half of the shredded cheese. Repeat, and then top with the grated Parmesan.

Saucy, meaty, cheesy, and delicious, this make-ahead casserole is a longtime favorite that's perfect for family dinners, casual entertaining, potlucks, and anytime you need to take a meal to a friend. 

At this point, you may bake the casserole or cover, refrigerate, and bake later. Once cooled, the spaghetti casserole also freezes well.

Saucy, meaty, cheesy, and delicious, this make-ahead casserole is a longtime favorite that's perfect for family dinners, casual entertaining, potlucks, and anytime you need to take a meal to a friend. 

The crowd-pleasing casserole has been served at many family dinners and come to the rescue of countless new parents over the years. Because the hearty dish may be prepared ahead and travels and reheats well, it’s equally ideal to take to a potluck or a friend who’s recovering from surgery. Or pack it in a cooler destined for vacations to the beach and mountains.

Saucy, meaty, cheesy, and delicious, this make-ahead casserole is a longtime favorite that's perfect for family dinners, casual entertaining, potlucks, and anytime you need to take a meal to a friend. 

Depending on the size of your family, you will likely have leftovers, which are always welcome as the flavor improves over time. 

Saucy, meaty, cheesy, and delicious, this make-ahead casserole is a longtime favorite that's perfect for family dinners, casual entertaining, potlucks, and anytime you need to take a meal to a friend. 

Something green, be it a salad or vegetable of choice, completes the meal nicely. Bread is a nice option as well.

Spaghetti Casserole
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Yield: 8 servings
Classic Italian flavors come together easily in casserole form for a dish the whole family will enjoy.
Ingredients
  • 1½ pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juices (or whole tomatoes, cut up)
  • 1 (24-28-ounce) jar spaghetti sauce (I like it a little saucier, but if your favorite jarred pasta comes in a 24-ounce jar, the outcome will still be good.)
  • 5-6 ounces (about 2 cups) fresh, sliced mushrooms (may omit if not a fan)
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt (use ¼ teaspoon less if using table salt)
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) sugar*
  • 8 ounces spaghetti**, broken in thirds (use gluten-free, if needed)
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ⅓ cup (27g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • Parsley for garnish (optional)
Instructions

Cook the sauce: In a 14-inch skillet or deep saucepan (a standard 12-inch skillet will be very full at the end), sauté the ground beef and onions until the beef is no longer pink. Drain if necessary. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, spaghetti sauce, mushrooms, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and maintain a gentle simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered. (Tip: You want the wateriness of the diced tomato juice to concentrate, but to maintain a good level of sauciness in the final product, you don’t want the sauce to reduce and thicken too much.)

Cook the pasta: Meanwhile, cook the broken pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain well.

Assemble the casserole: Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the spaghetti. Place half of the mixture in a 9×13 baking dish (I don’t grease), and then sprinkle with half of the mozzarella. Repeat with the remaining spaghetti mixture and cheese. Sprinkle the Parmesan on top.

Make-ahead tip: At this point, the casserole may be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for several days or frozen for several months.

Bake: Preheat the oven to 375℉ and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until hot throughout and lightly golden on top. If the casserole has been refrigerated, let it sit at room temperature while the oven is preheating and cook for a few extra minutes, as needed. If frozen, thaw completely before baking.

Serve: Garnish with optional fresh parsley and serve.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers, covered or in an airtight container, for up to 5 days.

Notes

* The original recipe called for 2 teaspoons of sugar. The purpose is to balance the more acidic flavor of canned tomatoes. I’ve reduced the amount to 1 teaspoon over time. If you prefer, you may use the higher amount–or omit altogether if preferred.
** A half pound of spaghetti might not seem like a lot for a whole casserole, but do not fear. It’s plenty. If you use more, the balance of sauce and meat to noodles will be thrown off.

Variations:

  • For a saucier end result, you could increase the marinara sauce to 4 cups, or serve with extra of your favorite sauce on the side.
  • Use a mix of ground beef and Italian sausage.
  • Substitute dried Italian seasoning for the dried oregano or use 1½ tablespoons minced fresh oregano.
  • Replace the shredded mozzarella cheese with an Italian blend.
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Comments

  1. Sara Post author
    (5/5)

    I took the spaghetti casserole to friends who just moved into a new home and the feedback was phenomenal. They said they got a second meal out of it with a little to spare (they are a family of four) which was awesome. I included bread and applesauce. Easy for me and yum for them!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Sara, What a lovely gift, especially on the heels of a move. I’m delighted the spaghetti casserole was enjoyed (twice!) and appreciate your comment.

      Reply
  2. LAURA

    I forgot to mention that my grandson, who has been rejecting ground beef, loved this casserole and ate everything, including the meat! That made the recipe even more worthy of making it again!

    Reply
  3. LAURA

    I am always interested in a dinner dish that will travel well so I gave this one a try! I made it to take to my daughter’s house for the day I babysat my 16-month grandson. It turned out so well! Everyone had seconds and there were enough leftovers for their dinner the next night. I served it with a side of broccoli and some artisan bread. I recommend adding the mushrooms. I think it enhanced all of the flavors so nicely. Thank you, Ann, for another tried and true recipe. I will definitely be making it again! (Note: I used an 8-ounce package of mushrooms, and when sliced, it equaled about two cups. This worked out differently than what was shown in the recipe, that 4 ounces is about two cups.)

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Laura, How wonderful of you to take the spaghetti casserole to your daughter–I’m sure she appreciates the food AND the babysitting! I’m delighted it was a hit with all and appreciate your feedback. Thanks also for the mushroom mention. I think they add something special too. One cup of sliced mushrooms is generally considered to be 2½ to 3 ounces (varies based on thickness of slice and how they stack in the cup), so I made that change–and a little more or less is absolutely fine. Thanks for catching my error!

      Reply