Easy Baked Spaghetti

My family begs me to make this baked spaghetti casserole every time they visit because it’s become our favorite comfort food tradition. Full of hearty homemade meat sauce, filled with creamy ricotta cheese, and topped off with melty cheese. What’s not to love?!

pasta bake with meat sauce and ricotta cheese

Baked Spaghetti Recipe

This is full on comfort food at it’s finest! Not only that but it is perfect for making a double batch and freezing for quick dinner on busy weeknights.

Classic spaghetti gets an upgrade with delicious meat sauce and tons of extra cheese.

And trust me, once you make this casserole, it will quickly work its way into your family’s weeknight menu rotation. Try my Baked Chicken Spaghetti too!

​Serving Suggestions:

spaghetti noodles, lean ground beef, and pasta sauce

Ingredients Needed

Spaghetti – I like regular spaghetti noodles but you can use any shape that you like. Medium or small shells work great for this too.

Ground beef – I like to use ground chuck but you can also substitute ground turkey!

Bell pepper – Green bell pepper is the usual for this dish but if you want it sweeter, feel free to use a red, orange, or yellow one. Or leave it out all together.

Italian seasoning – Homemade Italian seasoning is the best but you can use your own combination of spices.

Tomatoes – Use a combination of sauce and diced tomatoes. Depending on how thick you like your sauce you can drain the diced tomatoes before adding to the sauce.

Ricotta cheese – I like whole milk ricotta for this but use your favorite. You can also substitute cottage cheese. My Ma always used cottage cheese because it was cheaper and easier to find.

Shredded cheese This recipe uses a combination of mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese.

Pantry Staples – Onion, garlic, olive oil, egg.

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How to Make Baked Spaghetti

First: In a large pot or deep large skillet, cook the ground beef, onion, and bell pepper over medium heat. Add the garlic, spices, tomatoes, and sauce. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes.

Second: In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, parmesan, and egg. Mix and season with salt and pepper if desired.

Third: In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the noodles. Cook the spaghetti to al dente (according to package directions) and drain.

Do not rinse. Combine the noodles with the meat sauce reserving 2 cups of sauce.

Fourth: Preheat oven to 375F. In a deep 9×13 baking dish, add 1 cup of spaghetti sauce to bottom of baking dish and spread. Place 1/3 of the spaghetti mixture in the bottom in an even layer.

Add 1/2 the cheese mixture and spread in a even layer. Add another 1/3 of the spaghetti mixture and top with the remaining ricotta mixture. Top with remaining spaghetti. Pour remaining 1 cup sauce over the top.

Fifth: Top with mozzarella cheese and bake 30 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes. Serve warm with garlic knots!

For the full recipe and detailed baking instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post.

cooked spaghetti makes this an easy dish to prep ahead of time

How long does it last?

Leftovers will last in the fridge for 3-5 days in an airtight container. Freeze in a freezer safe container or in a casserole dish that is oven safe.

Cover with plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before baking or reheating.

Can I make it ahead of time?

This southern baked spaghetti is the perfect meal to make ahead or double the batch and throw one in the freezer for those busy nights.

bowl of easy baked spaghetti

Substitutions

  • Ground beef: If you aren’t a fan of ground beef, feel free to use ground turkey, ground pork, ground chicken, or Italian sausage.
  • Cheese: Try using a different cheese in place of mozzarella. Romano, parmesan or provolone are all tasty as well. You can also replace the ricotta with cream cheese or cottage cheese!
  • Pasta: I prefer using spaghetti in this recipe but feel free to use angel hair for a thinner long noodle or bucatini if your prefer a thicker noodle,
  • Herbs: Italian seasoning is my favorite for this recipe. But use whatever herbs you like best. If you have fresh herbs, feel free to use those instead of dried ones.

TIP: If you are using fresh herbs, be sure to use double the amount as you would dried herbs due to the high water content. They will cook down a lot.

fork with bite of baked spaghetti casserole

Tips for No Leftovers

  • To keep the texture of your spaghetti firm, slightly undercook, just to al dente as they will continue to cook when they go into the oven.
  • For extra smooth melted cheese, shred your own rather than buying the pre-shredded bags of cheese. Most pre-shredded bags of cheese are coated with anti-caking agents that do not melt as well and can throw off the taste.
  • If you aren’t a fan of ricotta or cannot find it, replace with cream cheese or cottage cheese.
  • Add some red pepper flakes if you like spicy spaghetti sauce.
  • Double the recipe and make a second batch to freeze later!

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!

freezer meal of classic baked spaghetti casserole

This cheesy, easy baked spaghetti, is the perfect busy weeknight meal for the whole family. Easy to make, freezer friendly, and oh-so-comforting there’s no way you’re going to be able to eat just one plateful!

scoop of pasta casserole

Southern Baked Spaghetti

Southern Baked Spaghetti is a comforting dish bursting with flavor. Tender spaghetti is mixed with a hearty homemade meat sauce, smothered in a creamy ricotta filling, and topped off with melty cheese to make a meal that the whole family will love!
4.67 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 417kcal
Author: Jennifer Stewart

Ingredients

Spaghetti Sauce

  • 2 pounds ground beef I like 93/7
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 green bell pepper seeded, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced fine
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 28 ounces tomato sauce
  • 28 ounces diced tomatoes

Ricotta Filling

  • 24 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and pepper to taste

Additional Ingredients

  • 1 pound 16 oz spaghetti
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded

Instructions

  • Prepare the spaghetti sauce
  • In a large, deep skillet or pot, brown the ground beef, onion, and bell pepper until the beef is no longer pink and the onion and bell pepper are starting to soften.
  • Add the garlic, spices, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Stir to combine.
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and let reduce in volume while you cook the spaghetti.
  • Cook the spaghetti
  • In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil.
  • Add some salt and the spaghetti noodles.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta noodles are al dente (roughly 9-11 minutes or according to package directions).
  • Drain and place in a large bowl.
  • Prepare the ricotta filling
  • In a medium sized bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and egg.
  • Mix to thoroughly combine.
  • Assemble the spaghetti casserole
  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • Add the spaghetti sauce to the pasta noodles, reserving 2 cups.
  • Toss to combine the noodles and sauce.
  • In a deep dish 9 x 13 baking dish, pour the 1 cup reserved sauce and spread around, covering the bottom of the dish.
  • Add 1/3 of the spaghetti and sauce mixture, spreading it into a single, even layer.
  • Add 1/2 the ricotta mixture over the noodles spreading to the edges.
  • Top with another 1/3 of the spaghetti and sauce mixture.
  • Add the remaining ricotta mixture and spread out.
  • Top with the remaining spaghetti and sauce mixture and cup of sauce.
  • Cover the casserole with the shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until the casserole is bubbly and the cheese is melted.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  • Enjoy!

Video

Notes

  • To keep the texture of your spaghetti firm, slightly undercook, just to al dente as they will continue to cook when they go into the oven.
  • For extra smooth melted cheese, shred your own rather than buying the pre-shredded bags of cheese. Most pre-shredded bags of cheese are coated with anti-caking agents that do not melt as well and can throw off the taste.
  • If you aren't a fan of ricotta or cannot find it, replace with cream cheese or cottage cheese.
  • Double the recipe and make a second batch to freeze later!
  • Nutrition

    Serving: 1g | Calories: 417kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 122mg | Sodium: 838mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g

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    6 Comments

    1. This was really good and my family agreed! I followed the recipe but halved it for my family of 4. We have half leftover. Thanks for sharing!

    2. This sounds like a keeper. Can’t wait to try it out!!

    3. do we drain the beef and onions after browning, step 1?

      1. Only if you want to. Depending on the fat content of the ground beef. I usually use 93/7 and don’t drain it but it’s totally up to you.

    4. Shredded Parmesan or grated (green can)?

      1. I like to use the shredded. Like you find in the dairy section in a bag.

    4.67 from 3 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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