Million Dollar Spaghetti is a recipe that has been floating around for many years, but one that I had not dared to try! Silly me. It’s loaded with creamy deliciousness and charm and I’m sure will make it to our table many times in the future.
I absolutely love a good hearty bowl of delicious spaghetti. This recipe is unique in that it’s more like a spaghetti lasagna! Layers of noodles, pasta sauce, and all the cheese, and presto, you have an amazing meal that everyone will love.
Making the sauce from scratch is so easy to do and the results are completely worth it! I find that making homemade spaghetti is also a great way to get the kids involved in and excited about cooking. This is where all great cooks get their start.
HOW TO MAKE MILLION DOLLAR SPAGHETTI
Let’s start with the marinara sauce. The rest of this simple recipe is just a few more basic ingredients. This is really where you can start to get creative and take ownership of the recipe. The very basic ingredients that I add in this stage are:
- Canned Tomatoes: I prefer a rougher chopped tomato. We typically can our own tomatoes every year, so we crack open a bottle of our stewed tomatoes and just chop them up. If you are buying canned tomatoes and prefer a smaller tomato, make sure to grab the diced or crushed version. Sometimes you can get these already seasoned with garlic, Italian seasoning, basil, and various other seasonings. Just make sure you read the label and adjust so you don’t over season the sauce.
- Tomato Sauce and Tomato Paste: These two combined add the hearty tomato flavor and give the dish some much-needed thickness. If you like your spaghetti sauce a little runnier, you can add extra sauce. If you like your spaghetti sauce thicker, you can add some extra paste.
- Seasonings: The very basic seasonings you will need are basil and oregano. Add more or less to adjust the flavor. If you are looking to change the game up a bit, add crushed red pepper or cayenne for some additional spice. If you aren’t getting enough of the garlic flavor, add in some garlic powder. It may sound strange, but you can also add a little sugar to the sauce. Sugar will enhance the natural sweetness of the tomatoes.
Next is the meat sauce! Start with a medium-sized bowl and combine:
- Ground Beef
- Yellow Onion
- Green Bell Pepper
- Salt & Pepper
Using a fork, or just using your hands, combine everything. Once combined, you can put the entire mixture into a large skillet over medium heat. Keep in mind that the onions, garlic, and green peppers will need to saute a bit, so take care not to have the pan too hot. You could also add additional veggies like mushrooms or jalapeno peppers at this stage.
And finally, you can make the cheese mixture! Add the ingredients and stir… and get ready to make some expensive-tasting magic!
NOW WE GET TO START LAYERING!
- In a prepared pan, add half of the noodle and marinara mixture.
- Add the cheese mixture and spread as smooth as you can.
- Add the rest of the noodles.
- Pour the meat sauce over top.
- Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
- Bake! Pay attention to the ingredients as you bake it with foil and then without for a few minutes.
HOW TO SERVE THIS SPAGHETTI
We like it hot! Right out of the oven, when the cheese is melting into every nook and cranny, the sauce is perfectly coating every noodle, and that hidden cream cheese layer is just waiting to be discovered. My family of 7 can eat the whole pan, but just in case you have leftovers here is how we store them: I take out individual pieces and place them in airtight storage containers. Often when reheating leftovers it’s one or two people that want some, so having them individually proportioned helps.
WANT TO MAKE THIS AHEAD AND FREEZE? (IT IS THE PERFECT GIFT FOR ANYONE YOU ARE WANTING TO GIFT A MEAL TOO!)
When I am making a pan to freeze I do a few easy things. First I start with a foil casserole pan, these are cheap and mean that if I am gifting this to someone they do not have to worry about returning a dish to me. Next, I follow the recipe up until the point of baking. At the point, I cover it with foil and label and date it. Place in the freezer for up to 3 months. If you are gifting this here are the thawing instructions: Remove a day ahead of time and place in the refrigerator to come to room temperature. If you don’t have time to thaw in the refrigerator, you can place it directly in the oven, but it will cook for 55-65 minutes. I still recommend removing the foil towards the end so that the cheese can melt completely. Easy peasy!
- 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
- 1 can (16 ounces) tomato sauce
- 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 box (16 ounces) spaghetti noodles, cooked to package directions
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 small green bell pepper, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup ricotta cheese
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided (save 1 cup for sprinkling on top)
- ½ cup parmesan, grated (we prefer freshly grated)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
- salt & pepper to taste
- parsley chopped (for garnish)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Grease a 9×13 baking dish.
In a large saucepan over low heat combine diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Simmer on low for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove 1 cup of the marinara sauce and set aside for later.
Add cooked spaghetti to the saucepan and toss to combine.
Cover to keep warm. (The longer it sits the more flavorful it is!)
In a large skillet (I used a 10-inch skillet) add the ground beef, onions, green pepper, garlic, salt, and pepper into the pan and cook on medium-high.
Once browned, remove from the heat, drain the grease, and add the reserved cup of marinara sauce.
In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, ricotta cheese, 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper.
Add half the noodle and marinara sauce mixture to the prepared baking dish.
Top with the cream cheese mixture and spread in an even layer.
Top with the remaining noodle and marinara sauce mixture.
Top with the meat sauce mixture and remaining cup of mozzarella cheese.
Cover with tinfoil and bake for 25 minutes.
Uncover and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.