Not every day in August is warm. In fact it gets quite chilly here at night, so I decided to bake something delicious. This is a great dish for all age groups. I would feed this to a child just as soon as I would feed it to a senior citizen. It’s great for college students, it’s great for fancy parties, because it’s really just spaghetti and meatballs… in lasagna form.

Other great things about this dish:

  • It’s cheap.
  • You can do it even faster than the recipe below.
  • It feeds many mouths, or you for many meals (as I am doing it).
  • It’s healthier than other baked pastas, like lasagna and baked ziti which are covered in cheese.
  • It’s quick.
  • It’s delicious.
  • It freezes well, and refrigerates well.
  • It can be vegetarian if you want it to be.

Just make it already!

Baked Spaghetti with Bolognese (or just regular tomato sauce if you don’t eat/want meat)

(makes one 8×8 square pan, 4-6 servings)

3/4 Package of spaghetti, you can use any kind, spinach, whole wheat, gluten-free, or regular

1 Pound ground beef (or turkey if you don’t eat red meat, or nothing if you don’t eat meat. I wouldn’t try this with tofu because it would be too watery, but if you want to try some smart ground, be my guest, tell me how it turns out)

5 Medium-large tomatoes, whatever floats your fancy, I used homegrown heirlooms

1 Can tomato paste

Handful of fresh basil

1/4 Cup dry red wine (like a Sangiovese or a Syrah/Shiraz, you can leave this out if you don’t drink wine/can’t afford wine/are feeding kids, although the alcohol cooks out)

Salt and Pepper

1 Teaspoon white sugar

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Bag shredded Mozzarella cheese

1/2 Cup shaved Parmesan cheese

Boil the spaghetti in salted water, drain and set aside (if you make the whole package you can make a larger portion of the spaghetti, but I found that 3/4 of the package was just enough for an 8×8).

Brown the meat in the olive oil and drain well of all the fat, set aside.

Put the tomatoes (whole) in boiling water for just a couple of minutes, drain and then pierce the skin for easy peeling. Cut out the cores at the tops and put rest of tomato in a large bowl. With your clean hands (this is a great step for kids and the children within us all) crush the fresh skinless tomatoes until they are broken up into much smaller pieces). Put the crushed tomatoes into the unwashed meat-browning pan and add salt, pepper and sugar. Pour in the wine and let it cook a  bit. Then add the tomato paste and meat and stir in well. If you want a richer tasting sauce, you can cover the pan and let the sauce simmer for 20-40 minutes (but you should add a couple more tomatoes if you do this), if not, proceed to the next step. If you’re not simmering the sauce, chop up and add in your basil, and then move to the next step, if you are simmering, simmer first and then add your  basil near the end of your simmering time (you don’t want the flavor to be non-existent.

Once the sauce is together, add the pre-cooked spaghetti and mix well, you don’t want a noodle un-sauced. Mix in 1/2-3/4 cup of the shredded mozzarella to  the sauce and pasta mixture and then slide into your baking pan. Sprinkle the rest of your mozzarella (a bag should be about 2 cups all together, so you should have 1 1/2 cups or 1 1/4 cups to sprinkle on top) around the edges of the baked spaghetti leaving a small circle in the middle. In the circle sprinkle the parmesan and then overlap the rest of your parmesan over the mozzarella.

Bake in a 350º oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Love and Happy Spatulas (which you will need to serve this delicious and savory treat),

Alyssa

PS: If you don’t want to make your own tomato sauce (and who can blame you if you’re really a busy person or are just afraid of peeling tomatoes) you can buy any jar of tomato sauce that you like. If you want a bolognese, just brown the meat and add it to the jar of sauce. You should, however, add fresh basil to a jar of sauce because it will enhance the flavor immensely.

PPS: If you want even more flavor or spice in your sauce you can add some paprika (for flavor) or some crushed red pepper flakes(for spice).

PPPS: You may have noticed that there is no garlic in this recipe, and if you’re from the states you’re probably wondering why. When I was in Italy recently, I was told by my friends who live there that Italians rarely use garlic in their cooking. The main reason for this is mostly the fright of bad breath, so add some garlic if that flavor is right for you, but the Italians wouldn’t do it (or so I’ve heard).

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