plate with baked spaghetti

The classics are classic for good reason: they stand the test of time because they’re truly that good. From a book that still moves the reader, like Hemingway’s "For Whom the Bell Tolls," to a timeless song, like "Gimmie Shelter" by the Rolling Stones, to a movie that still has us on the edge of the seat, like "The Godfather" — some things will always be beloved. And when it comes to food, what dish could be more classic than a plate of spaghetti?

But hey, just because something is an OG, that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. Because sure, maybe spaghetti (and meatballs!) in a nice pasta sauce is the classic meal, but why stop with a tried and true classic when you can go a few more steps and make a masterpiece? And in this case, it’s a masterpiece that may even end your long love affair with another classic dish: lasagna. What could do that? Why, this recipe for baked spaghetti, courtesy of recipe developer Stephane Rapone from Pantry to Plate Meals. As for how best to enjoy this dish? For that, the classics rule. Rapone says, "I love this baked spaghetti with a simple Caesar salad and some garlic bread."

Gather your ingredients for the baked spaghetti

ingredients for the baked spaghetti

To make this delightful meal in a pan, you’ll need spaghetti, chopped yellow onion, ground beef, kosher salt, minced garlic, canned crushed tomatoes, sugar, dried basil, butter, eggs, Parmesan cheese, flour, whole milk, fresh ground black pepper, fresh nutmeg, mozzarella cheese, and a good non-stick cooking spray. And you’ll need solid 2 hours from start to finish when you factor in all the boiling, baking, and cooling, so plan ahead!

Boil the pasta and make the sauce

a pot of pasta sauce

First off, get that oven preheating to 350 F and get a large pot of salted water boiling. Once it is, cook the spaghetti until it is al dente (just undercooked) which will usually take about 9 minutes. Drain it when ready.

Meanwhile, spray another large pot with non-stick cooking spray and warm it over medium heat, then add the chopped onion and let it cook, stirring occasionally, until it has softened, which will take 3-5 minutes. Then add the ground beef and a teaspoon of salt, breaking up the beef evenly with a spatula or wooden spoon. Cook the meat until it has browned, then add the garlic, stir, and let it cook for 1 minute.

Finally for this step, add the crushed tomatoes and dried basil to the meat and veggies and stir well, letting the mixture cook until it begins to bubble. Then cut the heat and stir in the sugar.

Toss the pasta in cheese and butter and prep a bechamel sauce

pasta in sauce

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the microwave (or a pan) then add it to a large bowl. Let the butter cool a moment, then add ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese and the eggs and whisk this all together well, then quickly add the cooked and drained pasta and toss it to coat the spaghetti well. Now add the sauce to the bowl with the pasta and toss again.

Next, in a medium-sized pan over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter, then add the flour and whisk it in. Then add the milk, pouring slowly and stirring constantly. Let the mixture cook and thicken into a bechamel sauce. Finally, sprinkle in the remaining salt along with the nutmeg and pepper, stir, then cut the heat.

"The bechamel really stands out in the final product, bringing an amazing creamy texture to the final dish," Rapone says.

Assemble the ingredients in the pan, then bake

a pan of pasta

In your large baking pan, add half of the sauce-covered pasta and spread it out evenly across the bottom of the dish. Cover this layer in half of the bechamel sauce, then sprinkle over the rest of the parmesan cheese. Then add the rest of the pasta in a second layer, coating it with the rest of the bechamel sauce.

Cover the pan with foil and bake it for 40 minutes, then carefully pull it from the oven and remove the foil. Top the dish with the mozzarella cheese, then pop it back into the oven to bake for about 20 minutes more, until the cheese is bubbling and just starting to turn golden brown. Rapone warns, "Make sure to watch the dish in the final browning stages so you don’t accidentally burn the cheese."

Let the baked spaghetti rest for 10 minutes, then serve and enjoy! And note, Rapone says, "This is excellent for leftovers. Just store in an airtight container for up to one week and reheat in the microwave."

If you’re looking to liven up your plain old spaghetti dinner, this easy baked spaghetti recipe will add just the right pizzazz.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon + 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 tablespoons butter, divided
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch of fresh nutmeg
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with non-stick spray.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon of salt and cook the spaghetti until slightly under-cooked, about 9 minutes.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and spray with non-stick spray, then add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes, until softened.
  4. Add the ground beef and 1 teaspoon of salt and continue cooking, crumbling the beef, until cooked through.
  5. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring, then add the crushed tomatoes and dried basil and stir to combine with the beef and onions, cooking until bubbly.
  6. Turn off the heat and add the sugar, stirring to combine.
  7. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the microwave, then add it to a large bowl and allow to cool slightly. Add ¼ cup of Parmesan and the eggs and whisk together, then add the cooked and drained spaghetti and toss to coat.
  8. Add the beef/tomato sauce to the spaghetti and toss to coat.
  9. In a medium saucepan, add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and melt, then add the flour and whisk smooth. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Cook until the sauce thickens into a bechamel sauce. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, a pinch of nutmeg, and fresh ground black pepper and whisk, then turn off the heat.
  10. Place half of the spaghetti in the bottom of the dish and gently press into a layer. Add half of the bechamel and spread evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan. Then, layer on the rest of the spaghetti in a layer, then the rest of the bechamel.
  11. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
  12. After 40 minutes, remove the foil and top with mozzarella, then bake, uncovered, until the mozzarella is golden and bubbly, approximately 20 minutes.
  13. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Nutrition

Calories per Serving 470
Total Fat 25.1 g
Saturated Fat 13.3 g
Trans Fat 0.8 g
Cholesterol 105.7 mg
Total Carbohydrates 39.0 g
Dietary Fiber 2.7 g
Total Sugars 6.9 g
Sodium 552.0 mg
Protein 22.2 g

The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.