Easy cheesy baked spaghetti is a delicious pasta meal made with just 5 simple ingredients. Meat, sauce, and plenty of cheese throughout make this main dish casserole perfect for casual dinner parties, overnight guests, or weeknight meals.
Easy Spaghetti Casserole
If you’re like most people, you LOVE pasta dinners. One of our go-to dishes is this easy version of baked spaghetti. In truth, calling it a “recipe” is probably a stretch, but it is a fantastic combination of ingredients!
I’ve been making this since I was a newlywed and got the recipe from an office co-worker during one of our ‘potluck Fridays’. The recipe stands the test of time!
When to Serve It
This is an excellent main dish to add to your dinner party menu ideas. Serve it for casual weekend entertaining, or when you have overnight guests.
Why It’s So Good
- It’s loaded with flavor from 2 kinds of meat and cheddar cheese goodness.
- It’s an easy recipe that utilizes everyday staples.
- You can make simple substitutions to change it up.
- It’s the ultimate comfort food dinner. Hot, hearty, and filling!
- You can prep it ahead and bake when ready.
- Double the recipe to serve a crowd.
- Thin spaghetti – Whole wheat is always a healthier option than white pasta as it’s got fiber and extra nutrients.
- Ground meat – I like to use lean ground turkey to make it a little lighter, but you can certainly use ground beef for a traditional version. Use lean meat so you don’t have to drain much excess fat after cooking.
- Turkey pepperoni – Turkey pepperoni is a lot less fatty than traditional. We’re partial to the turkey pepperoni found at Wegman’s, but any brand will do. You can use regular pepperoni but just know that you will have more fat rendered as a result.
- Pasta sauce – Use jarred marinara sauce or pick your favorite brand and style. Simple marinara works well with the other ingredients and doesn’t overpower their taste.
- Cheddar cheese – Use an 8-ounce block of sharp cheddar and shred it your self. It will melt and taste better than pre-packaged shreds. Plus, shredding your own will yield extra that you will put on top of the casserole during baking.
- Try this with other pasta shapes like rotini or penne.
- Use lean ground chicken, beef, or even sausage instead of turkey.
- Use sauteed mushrooms as an addition to or in place of meat for a vegetarian version.
- Use regular pepperoni in place of the turkey pepperoni.
- Substitute mozzarella, parmesan, or Monterey jack for the cheddar cheese.
- Toss in diced peppers for a little crunch.
- Take this recipe to the next level by using my slow cooker spaghetti sauce in place of the ground turkey and jarred sauce called for.
How to Make It
- Boil – Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions. Use the least amount of time listed on the package. Once cooked, drain it and set aside. DO NOT RINSE THE PASTA.
- Brown – Cook the ground meat in a skillet over medium-low heat, breaking it up as it cooks. Drain any excess grease once the meat is cooked through.
- Mix – Put the pasta in a large mixing bowl and add the cooked meat and sauce; stir to combine. Add the pepperoni and about 3/4 of the cheese, and mix well until everything is evenly integrated .
- Bake – Transfer mixture to a 9″ x 11″ baking dish and sprinkle extra cheese over the top. Cover with foil and bake the casserole for 30 minutes at 350°F.
Make-ahead, Storing & Freezing
- Prepare the dish up to the point of baking. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, place the dish into a cold oven, then turn it on so the dish heats up slowly. Once the oven temperature reaches 350, bake for 30 minutes or until heated through.
- Prepare the recipe up to the point of baking. Use a disposable pan to freeze in and double wrap the casserole with saran wrap or aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Let it defrost in the refrigerator for 24 hours before baking or bake it straight from the freezer by placing the dish in a cold oven and let it preheat with the oven to 350 degrees F. Cook, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour or until heated through.
For this baked spaghetti you do need to cook the pasta first. There’s not enough liquid in the casserole to cook the pasta, so don’t skip that step!
Yes, you should bake it covered! This will keep the casserole from drying out.
Add this cheesy baked spaghetti recipe to your short list of casseroles to feed to your own guests, to share at potluck dinners, or to take to a new mother.
- 12 ounces Whole Grain thin spaghetti
- 1 pound lean ground turkey or chicken
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4.5-ounce package of Turkey pepperoni – you’ll only need to use about half the package
- 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
- 2 cups shredded cheddar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cook ground meat with salt in a large skillet over medium-low heat, until no longer pink.
- Cook pasta al dente, and drain.
- Put pasta in a large bowl, and add remaining ingredients. Combine well so everything is equally integrated.
- Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish and cover with aluminum foil.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through.