Baked Spaghetti

Spaghetti with meat sauce is one of those satisfying comfort foods that you can plan for when you are having friends and family over, or you just want to grab a fork and indulge. This is that dish, but imagine some nice, gooey cheese to make it even better. For this I used my Shortcut Meat Sauce, but you can make your own, either way this is definitely a dish that will make everyone happy.

Here’s what you need:

*1 LB spaghetti

*my Shortcut Meat Sauce or your own homemade

*3 C. shredded cheese, divided; I used a Colby Jack cheddar blend

Prepare the meat sauce.

While the sauce is simmering, cook spaghetti according to package directions, minus one minute. The pasta will continue to cook while in the sauce, so you do not want the pasta to get over done; drain.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Reserve 2 Cups of the sauce; set aside.

Toss the pasta in the sauce ( not the reserved sauce).

Spray a large baking dish with non stick spray. Spread half of the pasta in the baking dish.

Top with 1 1/2 C. cheese.

Spread 1/2 of the reserved sauce over the cheese.

add remaining pasta mixture on top; spread the rest of the reserved sauce over the pasta.

Top with remaining cheese.

Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

*Tip* Spray the foil with non stick spray before covering to prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil.

Uncover and continue to bake for 10 minutes.

take out of the oven and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

Cut into slices and serve.


Cheesy Beef and Shells

Does anyone remember the old commercials for Hamburger Helper with the Helping Hand? I’m still not sure if I find that it was cute or creepy…. the wavy hand that is, not the dinner. Mom made hamburger helper every once in a while, but she mainly made up her own pasta meals. I’ve made them a few times for hubby and me, they are pretty good, but I kind of find them lacking a little. So I came up with my own version of sorts. It’s pasta shells nestled in a cheesy, beef sauce that tastes like it had been simmering on the stove for hours. It’s simple to make, especially if you use my Shortcut Meat Sauce and there is no cooking the shells ahead of time….it cooks as it simmers in the sauce.

Here’s what you need:

*4 C. meat sauce; I used my Shortcut Meat Sauce

*a splash of Worcestershire sauce

*1/2 C. beef broth

*2 C. dried medium pasta shells

*1 1/2 C. shredded cheese; divided

*1/2 C. milk or heavy cream

Heat a large pan to medium high heat and add the meat sauce, stirring occasionally until the sauce starts to gently bubble.

Turn the heat to medium and stir in the Worcestershire sauce.

Next, add in the shells and the beef broth.

Stir until all of the shells are covered in the sauce.

Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the shells are tender; stir occasionally.

Take off of the heat and stir in the milk and 1 cup of the cheese. Top with the remaining 1/2 Cup of cheese right before serving.

Ziti Bake

If your grocery store has been like mine of late, and I’m sure it has, it’s been a challenge to shop for meals. I start out with a list and end up planing meals in the store with what I can find. The one thing that I have found a good variety of, is pasta. Not sure why, but I’m thankful. Now as I type this and go back to the store this week, the pasta shelf will probably be bare. But luckily grabbed two boxes of different varieties. I had already had some ground beef in the freezer before all of this started, so I figured a Ziti bake would be a make a good dinner. It’s comforting and can easily be stretched into 2 meals for hubby and I….not to mention it’s like a warm, cheesy hug. I Hope you find it as satisfying as we did.

Here’s what you need:

*1 lb of ground beef

*1 small onion, chopped

*3 cloves of garlic

*dried fennel seed; to taste

*smoked paprika; to taste

*Hungarian half sharp paprika; to taste

*dried basil; to taste

*dried oregano; to taste

*onion powder; to taste

*garlic powder; to taste

*salt and pepper to taste

28. oz can crushed tomatoes

28. oz can diced tomatoes

*16 oz container of cottage cheese

*Parmesan cheese, grated



*2 C shredded cheese of your choice; I used a blend of cheddar and Colby Jack

*1 Lb Ziti

For the Sauce:

This sauce you can make the day before, which I did to save some time on the day I was actually going to make it. But it’s perfectly fine to do it the day of.

Heat a large skillet on high heat. If you are using lean beef, add about 1 Tbs of olive oil. Add beef and cook, breaking it up as you go. Add onions and using a micro plane,grate in garlic cloves. If you prefer to use mince garlic, that’s ok as well. Continue to cook until beef is browned and onions are tender. Drain if needed.

Turn heat down to medium and add fennel, both kinds of paprika, basil, oregano, onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add both cans of tomatoes and mix well, tasting to see if you need to add any more spices or herbs. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool while making the pasta.

Boil pasta until al dente; drain and set aside.

In a bowl add cottage cheese. I prefer using cottage cheese in this and I use it in my lasagna rather than ricotta as well, but if you want to use ricotta, feel free to do so. Mix in about 1 tsp of basil, 1/4 tsp. Nutmeg, cracked pepper and 1 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese. Mix well.

Taste to see if you need to add any more herbs or cheese. Crack in egg.

Mix well; set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a deep casserole dish with non stick spray. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of dish.

Add a layer of ziti on top of the sauce.

Spread another layer of sauce on top of the noodles.

On top of the sauce, spread on the cottage cheese.

And next comes the cheese…. make it rain cheese on top of the cottage cheese.

Add another layer of ziti on top of the cheese.

Last layer…. pour more sauce on top of the ziti.

I’m sure you can tell by the picture that I did not use a deep enough dish for this. Yes, I was crossing my fingers that this would not spill out every where while cooking.

Lastly, add more cheese on top.

Cover dish…. and here is a tip- if you are using foil, spray the side of the foil that will cover the cheese with no stick spray. Cook for 35 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for 10 minutes or until cheese has melted and sauce is bubbly.

Serve with some crusty bread and enjoy! On a side note, I’m happy to say the sauce stayed inside of the dish. Yay me!

Cheese Tortellini With Pancetta and Creamy Marinara Sauce

I love pasta. It’s one of my weaknesses….well, one among many, but it’s up there at the top. I recently came up with this recipe when I found some nice looking cheese tortellini at my local grocery store. This dinner idea takes no time at all to put together and satisfies those pasta cravings.

Here’s what you’ll need:

cheese tortellini ( I used fresh, but you can use frozen)

pancetta ( I used a prepackaged kind that was already diced)

a jar of good quality marinara sauce ( you can use homemade if you desire)

grated Parmesan cheese

evaporated milk ( you can use heavy cream if you prefer. This is what I actually had in the pantry)

In a medium sauce pan, heat on medium high and add pancetta.

Cook until pancetta is crispy. Remove from the pan and drain on paper a paper towel.

At this point, take out the tortellini and prepare according to the package direction.

While Tortellini is cooking, pour marinara sauce into sauce pan. Next add the pancetta and stir into the sauce.

Heat on medium low and simmer until sauce is heated thru and tortellini is finished cooking.

Turn heat to low and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Add as much or as little as you like .

I know this doesn’t look like a lot of cheese, but trust me, there was a lot more added. You can’t go wrong with cheese in my opinion.

After the cheese is mixed into the sauce, slowly add the evaporated milk, stirring constantly.

Do not let the sauce boil after adding the milk or it may curdle. Keep stirring until milk is incorporated in the sauce. Take off of the heat and serve over tortellini. Top with more Parmesan cheese if desired.