This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclosure policy.
Make this Baked Spaghetti Casserole Recipe either a meatless dish or loaded with your favorite proteins for a night of ‘pure pasta comfort!’
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
Believe it or not, paprika is one of the most beneficial spices you can add to your dishes. This is because the active ingredient in paprika is capsaicin which has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant benefits.
Paprika is a native of South America that was naturalized when introduced to both Hungary and Spain. It is often divided into three categories; hot paprika, sweet paprika, and smoked paprika. It is used around the world in meat rubs, marinades, and seasoned salt and can even be used to naturally color foods.
For those nights when a big tossed salad and a warm bowl of pasta sound absolutely perfect, ask yourself this question: how much time do I want to spend in my kitchen? If your answer is “not too long, but I want something GOOD,” then you’ll want to definitely read through this recipe.
This recipe is made using simple pasta, a couple of cans of stewed tomatoes, and some super fresh onions and peppers from the garden. In these photos, I have added ground, cooked turkey sausage, but it can easily be loaded up with vegetables or whatever protein you have on hand.
P.S.: this dish is kid approved. So, pour a wine and add some water to your pasta pot. Once assembled, this casserole bakes for about 30 minutes allowing the top layer to mildly crisp up while leaving the middle creamy and oh-so-delicious!
Do You Have What’s Needed To Make This Baked Spaghetti Casserole Recipe? Check The List!
spaghetti or other favorite pasta
How This Recipe Came About…
The experimentation of this was twofold from way back. I was influenced by a Romanian lady I knew in New York. I know what you’re thinking – this dish looks Italian. It’s really not.
Her use of a combination of sweet and hot paprikas in the sauce of stewed tomatoes and vegetables fascinated me. The other reason this became my focus was because I was simply trying to find a use for a bowl of leftover spaghetti…
What Is The Best Pasta To Use For Casseroles?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. What I will say is that FOR PASTA USED IN MOST CASSEROLES, the key to that recipe’s success is undercooking that pasta by 1 to 2 minutes.
It does not matter if it’s fresh or dry, whole wheat or gluten-free, or that box of No. 9 Spaghetti in your pantry. They must ALL be undercooked to properly absorb the liquids in the casserole.
Do I Have To Use Paprika In This Dish?
Well, no…but the paprika MAKES THE DISH. Though specified in small amounts, you don’t need much paprika to influence a specific flavor profile in cooking.
In my opinion, asking if the paprika may be omitted may as well be asking if the spaghetti can be omitted. Leaving the paprika out means not experiencing the essence of this recipe. It’s subtle, but it’s there…
Modifying The Norm To Make It Not Entirely Average…
As I mentioned earlier, the sky is the limit in terms of adding vegetables and keeping this meatless, or adding proteins and loading things up. If keeping this dish meatless, and if you want more than just the onions, peppers, and stewed tomatoes, consider adding mushrooms, halved green olives, or even chopped artichoke hearts.
If your eaters like things heartier, both pork and turkey sausage certainly kick this dish up a notch. A wonderful ingredient to try, too is Spanish chorizo. It goes quite well with the tomatoes and paprika in the sauce.
How Long Does This Baked Spaghetti Recipe Take To Make?
Not long. In fact, it’s one of the speediest recipes I offer. All in all, set aside 45 minutes for this recipe from start to finish.
The most important thing is to read the directions on the pasta you settle on using. If the boiling time is 11 minutes, drop it back to 9. In other words, you must undercook the pasta you’ll be using by 1 to 2 minutes.
I allowed 15 minutes to put the sauce together and had my oven preheating AND my pasta boiling while I was doing this. The bake itself is a short 25 to 30 minutes.
What To Serve With Easy Baked Spaghetti?
A basic tossed salad with a pleasant scratch dressing, and maybe some rustic bread. Beyond that, this meal is complete the way you see it here.
That said, I have had this served with a veal and chorizo meatloaf that was outstanding, but that was a Romanian dish I never had occasion to watch be made. Any type of Hungarian or Czech or Spanish meatloaf or meatball would certainly be appropriate.
What To Drink With This Easy Baked Spaghetti Recipe?
For this dish, I enjoy an aromatic Romanian white wine such as a Feteascā Regalā. Vine in Flames produced by Budureasca Winery in the Dealu Mare is my TOP CHOICE. It’s crisp, softens the acidity of the tomatoes, and really plays up the hot paprika in particular here.
In terms of a red, I am torn between any Italian Barbera grape, and a Feteascā Neagrā. Since I am leaning in on Romania, Oprisor Winery makes a superior Feteascā Neagrā from 9-year-old vines grown in the Mehedinti DOC called La Cetate. There are notes of cherry, rosehip, blackberry and nutmeg followed by a very juicy, fruit palate.
Zăganu Beer is one of the best craft beers in Romania and is my suggestion for pairing with this dish. Timisoreana is a VERY close second, and still a top Romanian beer to try if you have not ventured there yet.
A Baked Spaghetti Casserole Recipe
- 9 x 13 inch casserole dish
- non-stick skillet or sauté pan
- pasta pot
- colander or strainer
- 1 pound spaghetti or other favorite pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 teaspoons Kosher salt divided
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- ½ cup onion chopped
- ½ cup peppers red, yellow, and orange mix; chopped
- 4 cups (2 cans) stewed tomatoes
- ⅓ cup diced tomatoes with juices
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon hot paprika may substitute smoked paprika
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 cups Parmesan cheese fresh; grated
As a variation, this dish can be made by adding cooked ground sausage, cooked ground beef, leftover rotisserie chicken, or crumbled Spanish Chorizo.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.
- Draw water into a large stock pot. Add 2 teaspoons of the Kosher salt. Boil spaghetti according to package directions EXCEPT undercook by 1 to 2 minutes. I personally allow mine to undercook by 2 minutes. Drain.
- Add olive oil to pot while spaghetti drains and pot is still hot. Add spaghetti to pot and toss well to coat. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in a large non-stick skillet or sauté pan. Add onion and peppers and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. To the onions and peppers, add the stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, remaining 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, black pepper, both paprikas, and the granulated sugar. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to break up the large pieces of stewed tomatoes if desired.
- Combine the spaghetti and the sauce together in the larger of the two pots. Toss well to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and toss well to coat.
- Turn the mixture out into the prepared casserole dish and top with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake until cheese begins to brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.
The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.
Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.