Everyone’s favorite Baked Spaghetti Casserole is a hearty, home-cooked meal that’s loaded with zesty sauce, tender pasta, and melted cheese! This scrumptious, warming twist on classic spaghetti is sure to be a regular on your menu!
Baked Spaghetti Casserole with Italian Sausage
Spaghetti is a classic meal that can be made in quite a variety of ways. Whether you make it vegetarian or with meat, with meatballs or without, or even with chicken, it’s a comforting casserole that will nourish and satisfy everyone at the table. And, to top it off, it’s really easy to make!
If you’re looking for a simple dinner option that is easy to make, stores well, and can feed an army, look no further. 🍴 Baked spaghetti is a go-to recipe in our house when we want to get ahead and have some great food in the fridge for later. It’s also nice when you have a special occasion that requires a big, comfy casserole dish!
How Are Regular Spaghetti and Baked Spaghetti Different?
Regular spaghetti pasta is boiled until it’s perfectly cooked, while baked spaghetti is boiled slightly until al dente, and then baked until it’s done. That gives the baked spaghetti extra time to absorb the flavor of the sauce. Plus, baked spaghetti is often loaded with melted cheese. 😋
Can You Bake Dry Pasta?
This is a tricky one, because the answer is “Yes, and No.” There are definitely recipes out there that use a lot of liquid in the baking dish, and the pasta is cooked from start to finish in that liquid, eventually becoming soft.
However, in this recipe, the pasta needs to be partially cooked beforehand, because the sauce and cheese can’t have that much water in them – they would become a big watery mess in the casserole dish!
To get the bubbly, flavorful layers, you need to have regular pasta sauce (not watered-down sauce), a sturdy cheese mixture, and pasta that is almost completely cooked.
What You’ll Need
One of the reasons that baked spaghetti is so easy to make is that you only need a few ingredients in order to make it! Here’s the full list, with details about each item:
- Pasta: I use ordinary dry spaghetti to make this dish, but it’s also good with other pasta shapes, so you can definitely use what you have on hand.
- Sausage: Sweet Italian sausage is my favorite. Hot Italian sausage also makes a flavorful (and spicy) casserole!
- Onion: Chop up a medium yellow (or white, or red) onion.
- Garlic: Freshly-minced garlic is great, but feel free to substitute jarred garlic or garlic powder, if you like.
- Salt and Pepper
- Pasta Sauce: Any prepared red sauce is great: marinara, tomato and basil, sauce with mushrooms, etc. If you have homemade pasta sauce on hand, so much the better!
- Cheese: Ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses make this dish ooey-gooey irresistible.
- Egg: You’ll need one whole egg to bring the cheese mixture together.
- Parsley: Chopped, for an optional garnish.
Let’s Make Baked Spaghetti!
If the idea of this recipe seems daunting, no worries! It’s as easy as pie. Here’s everything you need to know, to make a drool-worthy spaghetti casserole.
- Boil the Pasta. Boil the pasta according to the package directions, but make sure to cook it only until it’s soft but still firm. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add in the spaghetti and boil it until al dente; about 8 minutes. Drain, and set aside.
- Make the Meat Sauce. You can do this step while the pasta is cooking. Heat a large pan over medium heat, and then crumble in the Italian sausage. Let it brown as you stir occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes. Then add your onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent and slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Pour in the sauce, and stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
- Make the Ricotta Mixture. Whisk together the ricotta cheese and the egg in a large bowl, to make a smooth mixture.
- Assemble the Casserole. To create the layers in your baked spaghetti casserole, start off by pouring half of the sauce into a deep casserole dish. Next, layer on half of the pasta. On top of the pasta, spread all of the ricotta cheese mixture into an even layer. Finally, top the casserole with the rest of the pasta, followed by the rest of the sauce, and then the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
- Bake. Cover the casserole with foil, and bake it at 350°F for 30 minutes. Once that time is up, the pasta should be fully cooked (you can test it to see, and if it needs a little more time, re-cover with foil and bake for another 5 minutes). Remove the foil once the pasta is cooked, and bake uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbling.
- Garnish and Serve. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or additional parmesan cheese, and serve warm.
Tips and Tricks
Here are a few helpful tips to help you achieve the best possible baked spaghetti casserole.
- Using Oil: To brown the sausage, you don’t have to use oil, as the Italian sausage provides enough fat to prevent it from sticking for the most part. If you are using a very lean sausage, though, such as chicken sausage, you can definitely use a tablespoon or two of cooking oil.
- Adding Veggies: To up the fiber and vitamin content, try adding a veggie or two, such as broccoli, spinach, or zucchini to your spaghetti for an extra-healthy kick.
- Sausage Variations: Not a fan of sausage? No worries! Switch it out for ground beef, ground turkey, or even ground chicken! You could also leave it out entirely (or sub your favorite veggie or vegan meat) for a meatless meal.
Tasty Serving Suggestions
Baked spaghetti is great on its own, but with a few side dishes to top it off, it can be a true feast! If you’re in need of side-dish inspo, check out these easy options:
- Garlic Knots: An Italian-American favorite, Easy Garlic Knots are the perfect side dish to just about anything with pasta, and that definitely includes this baked spaghetti casserole! You’ll love how simple they are to pull together using refrigerated pizza dough.
- Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream Dressing: Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream Dressing is a tart, cold side dish that contrasts nicely with warm, decadent spaghetti casserole.
- Parmesan Panko Asparagus Fries: These Parmesan Panko Asparagus Fries are a crunchy version of this beloved spring veggie – even picky eaters won’t be able to resist trying a golden-brown crispy spear of Panko-crusted asparagus.
Storing and Reheating
- This dish can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days.
- To reheat in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F, cover the dish with aluminum foil, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until heated through.
Can I Freeze Baked Spaghetti?
- To freeze spaghetti, cut the casserole into serving sizes, and wrap each one in foil or plastic wrap (or place in an airtight container).
- Freeze for up to 3 months.
Baked Spaghetti Casserole
- 1 pound dry spaghetti
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 40 ounces marinara sauce
- 16 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1 whole egg
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- chopped fresh parsley, optional, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350˚F.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add in the spaghetti and cook until it is pliable but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
- In the meantime, heat a large pan over medium heat. Crumble in the Italian sausage and stir occasionally until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent and slightly softened, about 2 minutes.
- Pour in the marinara sauce and stir to combine. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta and egg until combined. Set aside.
- Pour half of the marinara sauce into a deep 9×13 inch casserole dish, and then layer on half of the pasta.
- On top of the pasta, spread all of the ricotta cheese mixture into an even layer.
- Add the remaining pasta, pour on the remaining marinara sauce, and top with mozzarella and parmesan.
- Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and sides are bubbling.
- Remove from oven. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or additional parmesan cheese.
- Serve immediately.