Million Dollar Spaghetti

Ingredients

  • ▢ 8 tablespoons butter, sliced
  • ▢ 2 pounds ground beef, lean
  • ▢ ½ cup cottage cheese (or Ricotta)
  • ▢ 8 ounces cream cheese
  • ▢ 3 cups Mozzarella, grated
  • ▢ 1 cup onions, diced
  • ▢ ¼ cup sour cream
  • ▢ 1 pound spaghetti, broken into thirds
  • ▢ 3 cloves garlic
  • ▢ 48 ounces marinara sauce
  • ▢ 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • ▢ ½ teaspoon cayenne

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°
  • Cook spaghetti in salted, boiling water – don’t overcook!
  • Drain. Add 12 ounces (½ a jar) of marinara sauce to the spaghetti and set aside.
  • Add onion and ground beef to pan.
  • Saute until beef is cooked and onion is almost translucent.
  • Add garlic, smoked paprika, and 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning; cook for a minute or two more.
  • Drain excess fat from pan.
  • Add half the sauce to the meat mixture and stir well. Set aside.
  • Heat the cream cheese in the microwave until soft.
  • Mix ½ cup of the Mozzarella, sour cream, cottage cheese, and cream cheese with 1 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning.
  • Blend until smooth and well mixed.
  • Place 8 squares of butter in the bottom of the 13×9-inch pan.
  • Cover with half the spaghetti.
  • Spoon the cheese mixture over the spaghetti and gently smooth into a layer.
  • Sprinkle with 1-½ cups of Mozzarella.
  • Cover with the remaining spaghetti.
  • Add the meat sauce in a smooth layer.
  • Add the remaining sauce over the meat.
  • Cover with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
  • Check and if the cheese is getting too brown cover with aluminum foil and bake 10-15 more minutes – or until the center registers 165° on an insta-read thermometer.
  • Remove from the oven and let stand 5-10 minutes.

Notes

Expert Tip: I like to break the spaghetti up into thirds before cooking. The smaller sized noodles make it easier to cut and serve.

  • This is a good dish for sneaking in vegetables if you have veggie-haters at your house. Chop them and add in with the meat and sauce mixture.
  • Let the million dollar spaghetti casserole sit for about 5-10 minutes after you remove it from the oven. This gives it a chance to solidify a little and it won’t fall apart (much) when you cut into it to serve.
  • Use a lean ground beef. I like the 90/10 mix.
  • This is amazing for potlucks! It doesn’t have to be steaming hot to be good AND it’s easy to take with you. Plus it makes a ton. I’ve never brought any leftovers home – the dish is always clean.

One Pot American Beef Goulash

  • Yield: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 15 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup dry elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. In a large, oven proof skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, sauté until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the paprika, Italian seasoning, salt, and black pepper, sauté for an additional minute.
  3. Add the ground beef, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon or spatula, as it cooks. Cook for 7 minutes.
  4. Stir in the garlic, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes (including the liquid), and water. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Add the pasta to the goulash. Cover and transfer the skillet to the preheated oven. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes or until the pasta is tender and sauce thickened. Top with cheese and return to the oven, uncovered, until the cheese is melted.

Who’s Your Mama??

Dearest  Boo,  I know that you wish that Giada De Laurentiis was your Mama, but sadly no.  I have one of her cookbooks, but not her body.  Sorry, not your Mama.

Then maybe Lydia Bastianich might be your Mama, but, again, no.   I have her body, but not her cookbook.  Sadly, not your Mama.

How about Mario Batalia, but no.  We are almost batting .1000, as I have one of his cookbooks, his orange Crocs, and his body, but my brain process equally well between the right and the left hemisphere (one of the big differences between men and women).  So, thankfully, he’s not your Mama.

Or  how about Fabio Viviani, could he be your Mama??  Who cares??!!!  I would just love to have him in my kitchen cooking for us, listening to his fabulous Italian accent, and hearing all the stories about “Top Chef”.  He was so much fun for us to watch compete during his season.   I wonder if we would ever tire of Italian meals?  Again, who cares??  He would be amazing to watch.

And finally, we have one of your favorite books from childhood asking the question….

and we know that is not true………..or is your Mama……


Sorry, I was on my rhyming kick and wanted to find something to rhyme with llama…..Obama.  Get it??  Okay, I’ll stop.

You love anything “pasta”.  I feel pretty certain that if I were to smash up peas (your most dreaded vegetable) and shove them inside of a pasta shell or a manicotti you could and would eat a plateful.  And if I were to toss it with your favorite marinara sauce and a good helping of Parmesan cheese you would think that you were eating “ambrosia”.  This is not a problem for me, as I, too, am a big pasta fan.  I have been more mindful of the “dangers” of pasta, so I have made sure that I am buying whole wheat pasta.  By doing this I am easing my guilt just a bit.

When you were little if we gave you a plate of spaghetti plain, no sauce, no meat, just the noodles, you would very quietly and methodically eat each and every noodle.  You were focused on that pasta and no one had better try to take away your plate before you were finished.  It’s just about the same today, only you do want the sauce (tomato or cheese) and/or the meat.

The only other “food” that has had that same hypnotic effect on your are potatoes.  Again, pretty sure that I could cover anything with potatoes and you would clean your plate.  However, you have been known to “play” with your potatoes.  One time, you were about two, and we were in Omaha visiting with my family.  At that time the only other young person was your cousin, Patrick, but since he was five or six you were not that interesting to him as a playmate.   We adults were all laughing and talking and, much to your dismay, not talking to you.  At one point during the meal your Aunt Izzy burst out laughing and pointing in your direction.  Your precious little hands had smeared your mashed potatoes all over your adorable sweet face!  When I was able to stop laughing and tried to clean you up, you were not at all pleased with me.  You wanted me to stop messing up your “make-up”.  Gracious Child!  What must I have been putting on my face that you thought looked like mashed potatoes?  This explains your aversion to make-up to this date.

It is so true, and so scary, that our little ones are constantly watching and listening to us.  And most of the time we are not aware.  Another time that this was brought smack dab into my face was when you were about nine or ten.  We were in Omaha visiting with another couple for the day.  Your father and Steve were out playing golf and we girls were off on a day of shopping.  Steve’s wife and I were in the front visiting and chattering away, while you were very patiently sitting in the back.  Waiting, just waiting for us to come up for air and you could join in on the conversation.  When we did you jumped in with the words “my mother could have had an abortion and I would not be living today”.  Utter silence.  I mean, what else could we add?  Ever since you were a wee one I have always shared with you that you were adopted and any details that I knew about your birth parents.  Although I don’t remember talking to you about abortion, I must have.  Or you heard about it at school………..yes, that’s right.  You did hear it at school.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Twenty-ten years ago a stranger gave me the most precious gift for my first Mother’s Day.  She gave me you.  Every Mother’s Day I think of her and her sacrifice.  She gave me a treasure more precious than silver or gold.  I would like her to know that you have been the greatest blessing of my life and I will always love you with all my heart.  You are a gift that I can never repay.  Your birth mother choose the harder path and one that showed you how much she loved you.  I hope she finds comfort in knowing you are deeply loved and cherished.

On this Mother’s Day, as on every other day, I would like your birth mother to know that I understand  it was a terrible decision to have to make, but one I am eternally grateful she made.  I hope it’s some comfort to know that she made a mother of someone who otherwise would never have been one. And that choosing to give the gift of life is amazing and one of God’s blessings.  Thank you, and God bless you.

Now, I know that your “other Mother”, Giada, would gladly make this for you any night of the week.  And know that I do, too.   Joy Rising!

Pasta Ponza

Prep  Time: 20 minutes

Bake  Time: 30 minutes  at  375 degrees

Source: Giada De Laurentiis’ “Giada at Home”

Makes 8 servings

  • Unsalted butter for greasing
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
  • 4 slices of bacon, cooked and broken into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned dried bread crumbs
  • 1 pound ziti or other short tube-shaped pasta
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions:

  1. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.
  2. Combine the tomatoes, capers, olive oil, salt and pepper in the prepared baking dish. Toss to coat. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the tomato mixture. Drizzle the top with olive oil, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden. Cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water. Transfer the pasta into a large serving bowl. Spoon the tomato mixture onto the pasta. Add the cheese and toss well. If needed, thin out the sauce with a little pasta water and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley, bacon, and serve immediately.