Someone once told me men like meat-and-potatoes and women like casseroles.
If that’s true, I think the main reason is that the casseroles are more fun to make. There’s something satisfying about mixing and stirring and combining and assembling, and ending up with a dish with blended flavors that is almost guaranteed to result in leftovers. (Translation: a no-cook day.)
There’s another advantage to casseroles. If you’re going to invite someone to share a meal, a casserole can be prepared ahead of time and all the prep dishes washed and put away before guests arrive. Then, you can sit around and visit while the aromas wafting from the oven make them more and more glad they accepted your invitation.
This week, I was simply in the mood for a casserole, and since it was a cool, rainy day, I figured it was a good time to haul out an as-yet-untried recipe from my stash. The one for baked spaghetti called for a 9 x 13 pan, which is almost more leftovers than two of us need, so I invited friends.
This was also a good deed. These friends are in the process of moving to a new house. Who wants to cook when half your dishes are packed away, or when your mind is on the hundreds of things that have to be done? In those instances, hunger creeps up on you and finds you totally unprepared.
So, “you bet!” was the quick answer when I called the night before and asked our friends to join us for our noon meal. (Which is our main meal of the day.)
When they walked in, the table was set, the kitchen was clean, and this luscious casserole was just about to be removed from the oven. She donated a salad, I sliced lemons for the tall glasses of cold water, and a simple meal became festive because it was shared.
Here’s my tweaked version of this hearty, delicious dish.
1 16-ounce package of spaghetti (I’ve decided a smaller amount would make the dish less pasta heavy. It’s your choice.)
1 pound ground beef–but I used bulk Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
1 26-ounce jar of meatless spaghetti sauce.
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
5 tablespoons butter melted
2 cups small curd cottage cheese
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Cook spaghetti. Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook the sausage (or beef) and onion and drain if necessary. Stir in the spaghetti sauce and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, Parmesan cheese and butter. Drain the spaghetti, add to this mixture, and toss to coat well.
- Place half the spaghetti mixture in a greased 9 x 13 x 2-inch dish. Top with half of the cottage cheese, half of the meat sauce and half the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers. Cover with foil and bake at 350° for 40 minutes, then uncover and bake 20 minutes longer until it gets a bit crispy around the edges.
Make sure Parmesan cheese is on the table. We like to provide crushed red-pepper flakes, too. And next time I make this, I’ll probably add chopped sweet red or yellow peppers and mushrooms to the meat sauce.
There were no complaints about it even as it was, however. As you can see from the photo, the four of us made short work of that casserole. We have leftovers, but not that much.
And, the myth has been debunked. The guys loved this meal as much as we women did.