Have you ever noticed that something happens when you bake pasta? Take Rigatoni – cook up the pasta, pile on the sauce and cheese and it’s great. Take those same ingredients, mix it all together in a casserole dish and bake it – totally different taste and texture.
Sometimes I’ll make a Spaghetti Casserole out of left-over spaghetti. Just mix everything together in a small casserole dish, cover and warm in the oven for a second meal. There are times when the Casserole is the star, and not a convenient way to heat something without using a microwave. This casserole is a little different in that there isn’t a thick pasta sauce but rather tomatoes and onions and the juices they provide. This is a real crowd pleaser.
Baked Spaghetti Casserole
16 oz. Spaghetti
1 medium Yellow Onion, finely chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 lb. Ground Chuck
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
Italian Seasoning to taste
1 (28-oz.) can Italian Tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes, optional
1 1/2 cups Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Cook spaghetti according to package directions until al dente, drain, and set aside.
While the water comes to a boil, peel and finely chop the onion. Set aside.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick spray. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the chopped onions to the skillet. Cook until soft and just beginning to caramelize, about 6 minutes. While the onion sautés, mince the garlic. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add ground beef, season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning, and cook until no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Drain fat in a bowl lined with paper towels to retain the minced vegetables while removing excess grease. Return the ground beef mixture to pan. Pour in tomatoes. Simmer until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Sprinkle with a little red pepper, if using.
Toss spaghetti noodles into the sauce, then transfer to baking dish and set aside.
In a small bowl, blend Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses together. Top the casserole with the cheese blend. Bake in the heated oven until cheese is melted and pasta is warmed through, about 20 minutes.
Serve and enjoy.
Leftovers can be placed in the refrigerate for several days. To freeze, place casserole in the refrigerator overnight. Then cut into smaller squares, wrap in foil and freeze for up to a month.