We love pasta and casseroles made with pasta, especially anything Italian. This casserole is a great diversion from the usual spaghetti and sauce we all rely on a few times each month when we are trying to feed a family. The great thing about this is also that it can be made ahead and baked later or even frozen. Sometimes when we are having a spaghetti dinner, I just cook about double the usual amount and make this baked spaghetti for another dinner later in the week or freeze it for a day when I don't have time to cook. Here is what you will need for this:
1 1/2 to 2 lbs. ground chuck
1 medium onion, diced
1 Tbs. garlic, minced
1 jar (24 oz.) marinara or pasta sauce of your choice
1(6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 1/2 cup water
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 Tbs. sugar
8 oz. spaghetti, cooked according to package direction less 1 minute (al dente)
2 Tbs. butter
16 oz. ricotta (can use cottage cheese)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
2 cups cheddar cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese
Brown the ground beef, garlic and onion in a skillet. Drain any excess grease. Add in the pasta sauce, tomato paste and water and stir to mix well. Add seasonings and sugar. Cover and let simmer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Mix the ricotta or cottage cheese, sour cream and 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Mix the warm spaghetti that has been well drained with the 2 Tbs. of butter. I like to break the spaghetti in half before boiling it for this, so that it cuts out easier after baking. The butter keeps the spaghetti from clumping and getting dry while baking. Spread the spaghetti evenly in a 9"x13" baking pan that has been sprayed well with nonstick baking spray. Spread the ricotta cheese mixture evenly over the pasta.
Sprinkle with 1 cup cheddar and 1 cup Mozzarella. Ladle the sauce evenly over all.
Sprinkle with the other 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 cup mozzarella and the other 1 cup cheddar. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Uncover and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is just starting to brown and bubble.