Everyday spaghetti and meatballs get turned on their head when you bake them into a casserole. The spaghetti is smothered in a cream cheese and tomato sauce with mozzarella, Parmesan and tender meatballs sitting on top like a prize.
The cream cheese gives the sauce a touch of richness and helps to thicken it the same way heavy cream would only better because it has more substance and flavor.
The casserole is layered, kind of like a lasagna. Half the spaghetti is topped with a layer of mozzarella and Parmesan, the rest of the spaghetti, another layer of cheese, meatballs sliced in half and yes, even more cheese. But it’s not too cheesy.
It’s bakes up into a hot delicious mess, warm and gooey on the inside and a little crusty and caramelized on top where all the meatballs and cheese are.
Baked spaghetti is so completely unexpected.
In a I-didn’t-even-know-you-could-bake-spaghetti and where-have-you-been-all-my-life(?) kind of way.
- olive oil and butter, for greasing the pans
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 egg
- ⅓ cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 big cloves minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley
- salt and pepper
- 8 ounces spaghetti
- 1 jar (24 ounces) of good quality tomato sauce
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 + ⅓ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with sides with olive oil.
- In a large mixing bowl use a fork to combine the beef, egg, bread crumbs, Parmesan, garlic, parsley, ½ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper.
- Use a ¼ cup ice cream scoop or measuring cup to portion out the meatballs. Roll into balls and bake an inch apart 16 minutes. Let cool. Leave oven on at 400 degrees F.
- Meanwhile cook the spaghetti to al dente in plenty of salted water according to package directions. Drain and add back to the pan with the sauce - reserving about ½ cup.
- In a small bowl microwave the cream cheese until soft 15 - 20 seconds. Mix the reserved sauce into it until creamy and smooth. Add it to the pan, turn the heat on low and mix it gently into the spaghetti with a wooden spoon.
- Butter an 8x8 or 9x9-inch casserole dish. Add half the spaghetti, sprinkle with ½ cup mozzarella and ½ tablespoon Parmesan.
- Top with the remaining spaghetti, ½ cup mozzarella and ½ tablespoon Parmesan.
- Slice the meatballs in half and place them on the top alternating between the cut side and the round side. Nestle them down into the spaghetti slightly. Sprinkle the remaining ⅓ cup mozzarella over them.
- Bake 25 minutes. Let set 5 - 10 minutes before serving.