Baked spaghetti is a wonderful cold night casserole. It is simple to prepare and the kids will usually be happy to eat it. This is also great for a small gathering of friends where you might need some carbs to soak up your nightly activities. Some of the time I will prepare mine a day or two ahead of time, wrap it in plastic wrap, and then bring it back to room temperature before I throw it in the oven.
I make my own tomato sauce and I use it here. It is a very basic ragout that can be prepared in less than an hour. I like to make a big batch of it and then can what I don’t use for the meal I happen to be preparing. If you have questions about canning, check out my Pickling post for details.
When it comes to the tomatoes. I use canned because I have access to a locally grown, canned, and sold organic tomato product. If you don’t, make your own. Flash steam tomatoes, dunk in an ice bath, peel, and crush by hand. As far as variety goes, I prefer San Marzano, but those are hard to find at times and my local source uses standard romas. They are not as sweet, so sometimes I add a pinch of sugar, but when I can find the San Marzanos, I snatch up as many cans as I can carry.
So first, the sauce.
Yield 56 OZ
Simple tomato sauce that can be dressed up very easily.
2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
12 cloves crushed garlic
1 large white onion, diced
3 tablespoons dried basil or ½ cup fresh basil, chopped (I prefer fresh)
1 tablespoon dried oregano or 3 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped (I prefer fresh)
To taste – salt and pepper
In a large sauce pan or stock pot heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add Onions and garlic. Add herbs and salt and pepper (just a pinch to start).
Sauté for 5-7 minutes or until onions are translucent.
Transfer onions, garlic and herbs to a blender. Add ½ of one can of crushed tomatoes. Vent blender and puree until smooth.
Return to pan and add remaining tomatoes. Cook, covered, on low for 45 minutes, stirring often.
You will notice that this is a little garlic heavy. Feel free to cut that back, but unless you can’t eat garlic, I wouldn’t put less than 6 cloves in the sauce. You can always add more if you’d like, especially if you are a garlic freak like I am.
So you only need a little over half the amount above for the baked spaghetti, so make sure you save the rest for any number of other things. I will post about a mushroom ragout over chicken cutlets soon, so it can be used for that as well. You can also increase the recipe and can the sauce so you have it on hand for whenever you need it.
The baked spaghetti is very simple after you make the sauce.
16 oz dried spaghetti
1 lb ground beef
1 large white onion, diced
30 oz Basic Ragout
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 large eggs
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups ricotta cheese
4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in basic ragout, salt, and garlic; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, Parmesan cheese and butter. Drain spaghetti; add to egg mixture and toss to coat.
Place half of the spaghetti mixture in a greased 3-qt. baking dish. Top with half of the ricotta cheese, meat sauce and mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers.
Cover and bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Uncover; bake 20-25 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
If you wish to make this ahead of time, stop before the last step and wrap it securely in plastic wrap. If you wish to freeze it, wrap the plastic wrap in foil and make sure you write the date you prepared it on the foil. It is good for 3 months in the freezer. After that, it will lose quality. Make sure you thaw the casserole completely before putting it in the oven. For best results, do not freeze. It will be good for 5-7 days in the fridge after preparation, depending on the freshness of your ingredients.
I serve this with some garlic bread and a beer, but I am not a wine drinker. Obviously a good Chianti would pair well with this, but I am not a sommelier so don’t take my advice when it come to what to drink with what. There are plenty of other blogs about that. Some local, craft gelato is what I top my dinner off with. If you can find some good local stuff, snatch it up.
As always, if you have questions, comments, or concerns, contact me.