I mentioned before that I had some odd cravings during my pregnancy, and baked spaghetti was one of them. What made it especially odd is that up until that point, I’d only had it once in my life. Even stranger, at the height of this craving, we visited my in-laws and my mother-in-law made baked spaghetti (without knowing of my craving). Score!
Spaghetti pie or baked spaghetti is pretty similar to baked ziti, but it uses cream cheese in addition to all the other cheeses (and obviously spaghetti in place of ziti). I made this meal during my pregnancy and liked it so much that I made it again shortly after Ian was born (and before finding out that he couldn’t handle his dairy quite as well as I could :P). I’ve made it with both cottage cheese and ricotta. I’m not a huge cottage cheese fan, but I find it works well enough in baked pasta dishes. I happened to have half a container of leftover ricotta the second time I made this and since I prefer the flavor, I used it instead. You can use whichever you choose.
Even with a homemade sauce, this meal doesn’t take much time to make. I don’t have a problem making the sauce while the water boils and pasta cooks (although admittedly, it seems to take approximately 1 week to boil a large pot of water on my range). That said, this can be assembled one night and baked the next. The recipe makes extra sauce to spoon on top of each piece, which is especially nice if you’re assembling ahead of time because you don’t need to worry about the pieces being too dry.
I don’t have a very picky toddler (thankfully), so I know it doesn’t always mean much when I say Zachary loved something, but I can pretty much guarantee this meal will please the whole family. It’s hard to go wrong with pasta and copious amounts of cheese. And the leftovers are great, too!
Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
12 oz. whole wheat spaghetti noodles
1 tsp. canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 lb. lean ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 tsp. dried basil
3/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
4 oz. light cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup lowfat cottage cheese or part-skim ricotta
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese, divided
3/4 shredded cup part-skim mozzarella, divided
Spray a deep dish pie pan or baking dish with cooking spray, and preheat the oven to 400°.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt and cook the spaghetti until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and heat, then stir in the onion. Cook for about 2 minutes before adding the ground beef. Cook, stirring and breaking up the beef, until well browned. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, red pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the sauce for 10-15 minutes and re-season to taste if necessary.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Immediately stir in the softened cream cheese and toss together with tongs until the cream cheese is mostly melted. Stir in the ricotta, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, tossing to coat evenly. Stir 2.5 – 3 cups of sauce into the noodles, and then pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella and bake for about 25 minutes, until bubbly and cheese is golden brown. Allow to cook for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with additional sauce.