Everyone runs to the table when million dollar spaghetti casserole is on the menu! In under 1 hour, this baked pasta dish made with layers of cooked spaghetti, meat sauce, and cheesy goodness will have everyone happy and satisfied!
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Easy, Cheesy, and Baked!
Baked million dollar spaghetti is one of my family’s favorite casserole recipes! It puts an American thumbprint on a classic Italian-inspired combination of two popular dishes. Spaghetti and lasagna. A lazy lasagna, if you will!
It’s made with layers of spaghetti and meat sauce, creaminess from the cream cheese and ricotta, more saucy spaghetti then topped with even more cheese, then baked until golden and bubbly. Much like baked spaghetti, this delicious million dollar spaghetti casserole is one the kids will really get a kick out of!
The nature of baked casseroles is that they are meant to feed a crowd, be homestyle comfort food, easy to make and tasty to eat. This million dollar spaghetti casserole, my tater tot casserole recipe and baked eggplant Parmesan recipe hit a home run on all fronts! They are sure to become some of your family’s favorites too!
Why This Recipe Works
- Easy. There’s nothing better than easy pasta recipes that taste amazing and bring everyone to the table. Turning pasta into a casserole just makes sense!
- Budget-friendly. There’s nothing in this recipe that isn’t simple. Everything can be adjusted based on your family’s preferences and it serves a lot.
- Make ahead & freezer-friendly. Prepare this pasta bake in advance and freeze it when you’re ready to bake it. Great for delivering to a friend or neighbor in need, or just to have something handy for a quick and easy dinner.
Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.
- Sweet Italian sausage: If you’re buying sausage links be sure to remove the casings first, as we will be crumbling up the meat. You can also try looking for ground Italian sausage like I have used in the photo above.
- Cream cheese: Use softened cream cheese to make it easier to cream. Bring it to room temperature well in advance or learn how to soften cream cheese quickly using my go-to tricks.
- Sauce: When I don’t have any homemade marinara sauce or homemade spaghetti sauce I throw in a jar of spaghetti sauce or store bought marinara sauce. If you have some extra time, using a homemade sauce will bring it up a notch!
- Ricotta cheese: This is a mild soft cheese that doesn’t have much flavor. It adds a ton of creamy texture, and is used in all kinds of pasta dishes and baked goods. So save your leftovers!
- Mozzarella cheese: Grate it fresh from a block, whenever possible. It’s tastier, melts better, and doesn’t come with added preservatives meant to prevent the cheese from clumping together.
- Italian seasoning: Here’s the easy homemade Italian seasoning blend I always keep on hand.
There are certainly things you can do to tweak this million dollar spaghetti casserole recipe a bit!
- You can substitute sausage for ground beef or ground turkey instead. In this case, I would add an extra teaspoon of Italian seasoning for flavor and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- Make it vegetarian, by replacing the ground beef with tons of chopped cooked veggies like mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, and celery.
- Use a different kind of cheese if you’d like. A combination of mozzarella and cheddar cheese is always good. You can also finish it with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese!
- Swap the spaghetti noodles with fettuccine or linguine noodles, or use your favorite medium pasta, like fusilli or rigatoni. Penne or ziti pasta works too. I know this because my Instant Pot baked ziti is also a favorite around here.
How to Make Million Dollar Spaghetti Casserole
- Prepare the meat sauce. Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Once it is no longer pink, add the onion to cook until soft. Then the garlic for another minute. It burns easily so it doesn’t need long to cook. Drain the fat from the meat before adding the spaghetti sauce. An easy way to do this is by moving the meat to one side of the pan and tilting the pan just a bit. Use paper towels to soak up the grease. Add sauce, and Italian seasoning and bring to a light simmer. Season to taste.
- Make the cheese mixture. In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, cream cheese, and 1/2 cup of mozzarella with 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper and add some chopped fresh basil if desired.
- First layer. Place 1/2 of the cooked saucy noodles into the bottom of the prepared 9×9 inch baking dish. It’s important that your dish has been greased with either butter or cooking spray that way your noodles won’t stick and the sauce won’t burn at the bottom.
- Second layer. Spread the cheese mixture overtop the noodles. This is why it’s important to start with softened cream cheese. It needs to be easy to spread! Place the remaining noodles overtop the cheese.
- Final layer. Add the meat sauce over top and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella. Cover it with aluminum foil.
- Bake. Put the casserole dish in the oven for 35-40 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and everything has been heated through. Allow it to cool for 5 minutes once out of the oven before you serve it. Sprinkle with a garnish of fresh basil and enjoy!
- Tips for mincing and chopping aromatics. Knowing how to easily mince garlic or chop an onion can make cooking so much easier! Plus, it helps with always having the exact amount needed in your recipe.
- I like to cook the whole pound of meat and then remove 1 cup and freeze it for a quick weeknight sauce.
- For a golden-brown cheesy topping, place it under the broiler for 1-2 minutes in the end.
- Double the recipe. As I said, I usually will cook all the meat anyway. Sometimes I’ll freeze some, other times, I’ll double the recipe! Simply use a 9×13-inch baking dish or freeze the other half in an 8×8 foil pan.
It’s pretty simple really. It’s given that name because of how delicious it is! The layers of rich, saucy, cheesy goodness in million dollar spaghetti casserole taste like a million bucks!
Yes, this makes a great freezer meal! Prepare it in a foil pan up until the point just before baking. Cover it with foil (you can also add a layer of plastic wrap before it, to avoid freezer burn) and keep it frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and remove the plastic wrap before baking.
Yes! It’s a great make-ahead dish. You can either double the recipe and prepare one for freezing using the directions above or if you’re cooking ahead of time for a busy week store in the refrigerator for a few days until ready to bake.
When we do any kind of pasta night, a basket of garlic bread or my easy breadstick recipe is a must.
This million dollar spaghetti casserole is pretty filling so a chopped salad or copycat Olive Garden salad on the side is all you’d need to complete it.
Storing & Reheating
Keep any leftovers stored in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight container. The pasta may have absorbed some of the sauce, so you may need to add a little bit more marinara sauce to loosen it up.
To reheat: A single serving can be heated up in the microwave. If you’re reheating the whole dish, place it in the oven at 300°F until warmed through.
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Million Dollar Spaghetti
- ¾ pound sweet Italian sausage , casing removed
- ½ yellow onion , chopped
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning , divided
- 1 (24-ounce) jar spaghetti sauce or marinara , divided
- 8 ounces dry spaghetti noodles
- ½ cup ricotta cheese , can sub cottage cheese or sour cream
- 4 ounces cream cheese , softened
- 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese , divided
- Salt and Pepper
- fresh basil
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×9-inch baking dish or spray lightly with nonstick spray.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage, breaking apart with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink. Add onions and cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until they soften. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Drain fat, and stir in 1/2 jar spaghetti sauce and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Bring to a light simmer and then season with salt and pepper to taste.
- While the sauce is simmering bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and return to pot. Stir in remaining 1/2 jar spaghetti sauce.
- In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Add in freshly chopped basil if desired.
- Place 1/2 of the noodles evenly in the bottom of the baking dish. Spread the cheese mixture over the top of the noodles. Place the remaining 1/2 of the noodles over the top of the cheese mixture. Pour the sausage sauce over the top. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Cover with foil.
- Bake 35 to 45 minutes, removing foil last 10 minutes, until heated through and cheese is bubbly. You can broil for 1-2 minutes if desired (watch carefully). Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle fresh basil over the top before serving.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
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