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This cheesy baked spaghetti casserole is kid-friendly, filling, and perfect for feeding a crowd. Melty cheese, meaty sauce, and al dente pasta make this a great weeknight meal!

An image of a slice of baked spaghetti casserole on a plate.

There is just something so incredibly comforting about a good, hearty casserole that I can’t resist. This cheesy baked spaghetti casserole is one of my favorites from my childhood.

I remember my mom making it on Halloween night, year after year, before we went out trick-or-treating because she wanted us to have something healthy and filling in our bellies before we glutted ourselves on our hoard of candy. She knew that all five of her children would eat up this kid-friendly dinner super fast so we could get out trick-or-treating.

Baked spaghetti casserole is so good and so timeless that I am still making it as an adult for my own family. We love it with breadsticks or garlic bread and a fresh, crispy green salad with Olive Garden salad dressing on the side.

An image of a spaghetti casserole in a 9x13-inch baking dish. An image showing the layers of baked spaghetti pasta, sour cream and cottage cheese, and meat sauce baked into a casserole.

What is baked spaghetti?

Baked spaghetti (sometimes called Million Dollar Baked Spaghetti) has layers of pasta, a hearty, meaty spaghetti sauce, melty mozzarella cheese, and a unique filling of cottage cheese and sour cream that gives this casserole a wonderful flavor.

Other versions call for ricotta cheese, or cream cheese, or some combination of the above, but we like the cottage cheese and sour cream approach best. I usually have both of those ingredients on hand since I like cottage cheese but no one else in my family will eat it except in this spaghetti casserole, so this is a great way of using it up.

If you really want to make things easy, go ahead and just use your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce with the browned ground beef and onions to create the meat sauce. But if you have never tried my classic homemade marinara sauce, it’s absolutely delicious and takes baked spaghetti casserole to a whole other level!

This baked spaghetti recipe makes enough to feed an army, filling a 9×13-inch baking dish right up to the top. But like most baked pasta dishes, this easy baked spaghetti is just as good (if not better) as leftovers the next day.

O you can divide it between two square baking dishes and just bake one for tonight and freeze the other for a future meal, which is what I typically do for my family of 4. Because baked spaghetti freeze so well, it’s also a great option for taking to a friend who just had a baby or is going through a difficult time.

An image of a sliced baked pasta casserole with melted mozzarella cheese on top. An image of a serving of baked spaghetti casserole on a plate with a fork. An image of slices of slices of easy baked spaghetti casserole on plates next to the rest of the casserole in the baking dish.

How to Make Baked Spaghetti Casserole

  1. Brown the beef with the onions: Cook them together in a large skillet, breaking up the meat and cooking until the onions are soft and the meat is no longer pink. Drain any excess grease.
  2. Add the sauce and seasonings: Let the sauce simmer on the stove for 15 minutes while you prep the rest of the casserole ingredients.
  3. Cook the pasta according to the package directions: Be sure to use a large pot of salted water and cook until just al dente. You don’t want to overcook the pasta since it is going to bake and absorb some of the sauce in the oven later.
  4. Prep the rest of the casserole filling ingredients: Whisk together two eggs, melted butter, and Parmesan cheese in a large bowl to toss with the cooked and drained spaghetti noodles. Combine the cottage cheese and sour cream.
  5. Layer the baked spaghetti casserole: In a large 9×13-inch baking dish, layer half of the cooked spaghetti that has been tossed with the egg, butter, and Parmesan mixture. Top with half of the cottage cheese and sour cream mixture, then sprinkle with half of the mozzarella cheese. Spoon half of the meat sauce over these layers, then repeat the process, finishing with the remaining mozzerella cheese on top.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes: Cover the spaghetti casserole with foil and bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the casserole is hot all the way through.
  7. Let the baked spaghetti rest for 15 minutes before serving: If you serve this right away, it will all fall apart into a gloppy (albeit delicious) mess. But if you let it sit for 15 minutes, it will have a chance to set up a bit so you have a better chance of slicing and serving squares of spaghetti casserole. 

An image of browned ground beef and onions in a large cast iron skillet with spaghetti sauce poured on top. A collage of images showing the steps for how to assemble a baked spaghetti casserole. An image of a baked spaghetti casserole topped with melted mozzarella cheese and chopped parsley.

How do I cook spaghetti?

  1. Fill a large pot with water. Add a tablespoon of salt to the water. A little more doesn’t hurt so I always just pour the salt into the palm of my hand and roughly measure out about a tablespoon then throw it in.
  2. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then break the dry spaghetti noodles in half and add them to the water. It’s okay if they don’t completely submerge right away. After 30 seconds or so they will be soft enough to settle into the water.
  3. Stir the spaghetti occasionally so the spaghetti doesn’t stick together and let it cook, uncovered, for 10-12 minutes (your package will say how long) until al dente, which is where the pasta is cooked and a little chewy (go ahead and taste it and see!), but not mushy. 
  4. Drain the spaghetti in a colander.

When I was little, my mom never set a timer and I remember learning that one way you could tell if spaghetti was done was by throwing one of the spaghetti noodles at a wall or the fridge to see if it would stick. If it didn’t stick, the pasta wasn’t done yet and needed to cook longer. If it stuck there, then it was done! Now I don’t mess around and just set a timer. I’m so boring in my old age, lol.

An image of spaghetti noodles in a pot of boiling water.

How long do you bake frozen spaghetti casserole?

If you made this baked spaghetti recipe as a freezer meal, you can bake it straight from frozen without bothering to let it thaw in the fridge overnight. Just make sure the casserole is covered in foil and place it in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 60-75 minutes until it is hot all the way through. Remove the foil and let the cheese brown a bit on the top of the baked spaghetti, about 10 minutes or so, then serve like normal.

To cut down on the cooking time, move the frozen spaghetti casserole from the freezer to the fridge the night before you plan to serve it and let it thaw, then bake as normal.

When I know I’m making this as a freezer meal and don’t want to tie up my regular baking dishes, I will either buy those disposable aluminum foil pans, or line my baking dishes with a couple layers of foil before filling with the casserole. Once the casserole is frozen, you can easily remove the entire thing from the pan in a block and transfer it to a freezer-safe ziploc bag. Freeze for up to 1 month.

Then when you want to bake it, just unwrap it from the plastic and settle it into your regular baking dish to bake.

An image showing the layers of a baked spaghetti casserole from the side view.

Can you freeze cooked baked spaghetti?

Yes, you can freeze the leftovers, even if they have already been baked. In this case, I recommend letting the frozen baked spaghetti thaw completely in the fridge overnight, then reheat in a 375 degree F oven, covered with foil, until hot all the way through (about 45 minutes).

You can also portion out individual servings of the cooked baked spaghetti and freeze them that way in individual freezer safe ziploc bags. Then it is easy to take to work and just thaw and reheat one portion in the microwave.

Variations & Substitutions

  • Sometimes I will add 8 ounces of chopped mushrooms to the ground beef and onions because I love mushrooms in spaghetti sauce. You could probably sneak in diced carrots or zucchini the same way for added veggies.
  • You can use sweet Italian sausage in place of the ground beef.
  • Ricotta cheese works in place of the cottage cheese. Just mix with sour cream as directed. The flavor is slightly different and not as creamy as with cottage cheese, but still wonderful.

An image of a sliced baked spaghetti served on plates.

More Pasta Recipes Your Family Will Love

Baked Spaghetti Casserole
Yield: 10-12 Servings

Baked Spaghetti Casserole

This cheesy baked spaghetti casserole is kid-friendly, filling, and perfect for feeding a crowd.  Melty cheese, meaty sauce, and al dente pasta make this a great weeknight meal!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) package spaghetti
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 (32 ounce) jar of your favorite meatless spaghetti sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1 cups sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (about 3 cups)

Instructions

  1. Fill a large pot with salted water and bring it to a rolling boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 11-12 minutes. Drain, toss with a little olive oil to prevent it from sticking, and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pan over medium heat, combine the ground beef and 1/2 cup of the chopped onion and cook, breaking up the meat until browned. Drain any excess grease from the pan and add the spaghetti sauce and Italian seasoning. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the cottage cheese, sour cream, and pepper. Stir until combined, then set aside.
  4. To assemble the baked spaghetti casserole, in a 9x13-inch baking dish, spread 1/2 of the cooked spaghetti noodles. Dollop spoonfuls of the cottage cheese and sour cream mixture over top and spread it into an even layer. Pour half of the spaghetti sauce and meat mixture over the top of the noodles and cottage cheese and spread it to the edges, then sprinkle half of the shredded mozzarella cheese over the whole thing. Repeat for a second layer with the remaining ingredients.
  5. Cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until hot in the center and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove foil and allow the casserole to rest for 15 minutes before serving.
  6. If making this casserole as a freezer meal, prepare to the point of baking it in the oven, then wrap tightly in foil and freeze. Defrost completely in the refrigerator when ready to cook, then bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes, until hot through and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Notes

  • Sometimes I will add 8 ounces of chopped mushrooms to the ground beef and onions because I love mushrooms in spaghetti sauce.
  • You can use sweet Italian sausage in place of the ground beef.
  • Ricotta cheese works in place of the cottage cheese. Just mix with sour cream as directed. The flavor is slightly different and not as creamy as with cottage cheese, but still wonderful.
  • This recipe freezes well. Just assemble and cover tightly with aluminum foil, then freeze for up to 1 month. It helps to either use disposable aluminum pans, or line your baking dish with aluminum foil before assembling so that the frozen casserole can be popped out and stored outside of the pan.
  • When ready to bake, you can either thaw in the fridge overnight and bake as directed, or bake directly from frozen by transferring the casserole back to a baking dish and baking for 60-75 minutes in a 350 degree F oven until hot all the way through.

    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    10

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 482 Saturated Fat: 14g Cholesterol: 91mg Sodium: 468mg Carbohydrates: 29g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 3g Protein: 26g
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