Easy baked spaghetti recipe with flavorful meat sauce and cream cheese! Rich, deliciously cheesy, and decadent. Make it for special occasions, weekly family gatherings, or for days when you just want to indulge.
Baked Spaghetti with Cream Cheese
This pasta casserole dish is somewhat similar to Million Dollar Spaghetti. Somewhat because it only uses two types of cheese–mozzarella and cream cheese. It has no butter, sour cream, or cottage cheese.
I guess you could call it "a simpler Million Dollar spaghetti" recipe.
Having said that, this dish is far away from being just a simple baked spaghetti because:
- The meat sauce is delicious and flavorful. Not bland at all!
- The cream cheese sauce is made even more delicious by combining it with cheddar cheese. So good!
What you need for the meat sauce and cream cheese sauce
Here are the ingredients you need to make the meat sauce:
- Ground Beef - I use lean ground beef. You can also use ground turkey and Italian sausage.
- Marinara Sauce - use your favorite bottled pasta sauce. So convenient and a time-saver!
- Dried Herbs - like Italian seasoning, Herbes de Provence, dried oregano, or basil. This will help boost the flavor of the meat sauce. Totally fine if you don't have it.
- Beef Broth - enhances the overall flavor of the meat sauce. You can use homemade broth or dissolve bouillon cube in hot water.
- Onion and Garlic - another flavor booster for the pasta sauce.
- Spaghetti - of course 🙂
To make the cream cheese sauce mixture, you will need these:
Since cream cheese is pretty mild, the cheddar cheese will boost its flavor by adding a hint of "sharpness".
Milk helps loosen the texture of the cheese, and thus can easily coat the strands of spaghetti.
And lastly, mozzarella–for that irresistible gooey-cheesy molten top.
How to make Creamy and Cheesy Baked Spaghetti
Here's a rundown on how I make this spaghetti casserole:
- Make the pasta sauce - you can make this ahead and then do the assembly just before dinner time.
- Cook the spaghetti noodles - you need the pasta a little bit undercooked so it doesn't get mushy after baking.
- Make the cream cheese sauce - you can do this while waiting for the spaghetti to cook. It should be done in less than five minutes!
- Stir in the pasta with the cream cheese - if it becomes too dry. Just add a little bit of pasta water to loosen it.
When everything is ready, assemble it in a baking dish. You can make a single layer using two shallow dishes or two layers in a deeper baking dish. Entirely up to you.
Spread the pasta in the baking dish. Pour the meat sauce and make an even layer. Sprinkle generously with mozzarella cheese then bake until melted. It should be done in 20-30 minutes.
That is it!
Veggies you can add to the meat sauce
If you want to up your vegetables, you can sneak these vegetables into the meat sauce. Either minced them with a knife or use a food processor for convenience.
- Red or Green Bell Peppers
You can make this ahead for up to 2 days and refrigerate. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
Bake when ready at 375c/190c for 20 minutes then bake uncovered for 10 minutes.
Shelf-life and Storage
If properly stored, this baked spaghetti should last in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.
You can freeze this for 1 month in a covered airtight container. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating in the oven.
Watch how to make it
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Baked Spaghetti with Cream Cheese
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium onion (chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 16 oz ground lean beef
- 32 oz jarred pasta sauce (use your favorite, see note 1)
- 1 ½ cup beef broth (see note 2)
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional, see note 3)
- red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 small bell pepper (green or red, minced)
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- salt and pepper (to taste)
Pasta and Cheese Sauce
- 16 oz spaghetti
- ¾ cup lowfat milk
- 8 oz cream cheese (softened, cut into chunks)
- ½ cup cheddar cheese (see note 4)
- 1-2 cups mozzarella cheese (grated, see note 5)
- chopped parsley (for garnish)
- Melt butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion. Cook until soft and fragrant.
- Set heat to high. Add beef and cook until brown. Make sure to break up the beef as it cooks. Season with salt and pepper. Pour pasta sauce, beef broth, sugar, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, bell pepper and Worcestershire.
- Bring to a simmer. Lower heat and cover with a lid. Simmer for 30 minutes. If liquid evaporates too quickly, add water. We want it saucy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pasta, Cheese Sauce
- Pre-heat oven to 190c/350f.
- Cook pasta in lightly salted boiling water as per package directions, minus 2 minutes. Reserve about 1 cup pasta water then drain.
- Heat milk in a large pot. Add cream cheese, whisk and cook until smooth. Add in cheddar cheese and stir until smooth. Add pasta and ⅓ of the meat sauce. Stir until spaghetti is thoroughly coated. If it's too thick, just add pasta water ¼ cup at a time to loosen the texture.
Assemble and Bake
- Option 1: Two shallow baking dishes–make a single layer if using two shallow baking dishes. Spread meat sauce evenly on top then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Option 2: One deep large baking dish–assemble in two layers. Spread meat sauce in between layers and on top. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
- Loosely cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Bake for another 10 minutes uncovered until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve and enjoy!
Recipe Notes and Tips:
- Pasta Sauce - can be substituted with tomato passata/tomato puree. Add chopped celery, carrots, and more dried herbs. Cook the sauce longer to deepen the flavor.
- Beef broth - can be substituted with 2 pc beef bouillon in 1 ½ cup hot water.
- Sugar - add if you end up with a sour pasta sauce.
- Cheddar Cheese - can also be substituted with parmesan cheese.
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Beverly A. McCarty says
I just finished making this spaghetti dish.....and let me tell you "IT IS EVERYTHING" the cheese sauce "SET IT OFF" it just gave a new meaning instead of beef, sauce throwed on top of noodles. I will be making again again and again
Awww thanks for the lovely feedback, Beverly! So thrilled to hear that you enjoyed this dish and found it delicious. Happy cooking!
This is great, so easy and to add a little extra, I topped it with pepperoni slices in the last 10 minutes!
Didn’t realize how much this served until I started cooking! It makes a ton! It is good though. Instructions are missing where to add it red pepper flakes and Worcestershire sauce.
Hi Karrissa, Glad you liked this recipe. You can adjust the scale at the top of the recipe card if you want to make a smaller batch.
I've updated the instructions. Thanks for bringing that up 🙂
Anxious to try this recipe...ma it for 8...1 recipe enough?? Confused with layering it...I will use one deep 9 x13 casserole...do I put all the pasta on bottom,,then all pasta sauce and the chheese???? And can be made the day bef ore???? Thank You!!!