Whenever a friend or family member is under the weather or hurt or grieving, one of my first inclinations is to try to feed them.
An article from 2016 by Adam McDaniel lays out the reasons human beings love to share food—part of it being sharing culture and part of being sociology.
“Food has a knack for bringing people together, forging bonds and creating conversation,” he wrote.
Sharing food is a way for us to help understand one another, and in the case of a sick or injured friend, I would argue that it’s one of the few ways I feel like I can nurture someone—since I’ve decided to forgo getting a medical degree.
That desire to care for someone is the reason this week’s recipe is absolutely perfect. It’s not only an easy weeknight dinner that is a true crowd pleaser, but it’s easy to toss in the freezer to enjoy later—making it a great gift when someone might need an extra meal at their house.
This comes from the blog “The Cozy Cook.” You can find the original post at https://thecozycook.com/baked-spaghetti/. I changed up some of the amounts of ingredients and the herbs and spices in my version.
- 16 ounces spaghetti
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound ground sausage
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 1 medium green bell pepper diced
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
- 32 ounces marinara sauce
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese
- 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 4 cups mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees (If you’re baking this right away. It can also be prepared for the fridge or freezer.). Prepare a 9-by-13-inch baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray, and set it aside.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions.
- In a large skillet, brown the hamburger and sausage over medium heat until cooked through, crumbling as you cook. Drain any excess fat.
- Add in the onion, pepper, basil, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper, and saute until the vegetables are soft. Stir in the garlic and saute for about one more minute.
- Add the marinara sauce, ricotta, parmesan and cream cheese. Reduce the heat to low, and stir constantly until the cheese is melted and all of the ingredients are well-combined.
- Add the cooked, drained pasta and stir to coat all of the pasta with the sauce.
- Add half of the pasta to the prepared dish, and top it with half of the mozzarella. Add the other half of the pasta, and finish with the rest of the mozzarella.
- If refrigerating or freezing, cover the dish with a double layer of aluminum foil. If not, bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and just starting to brown around the edges. Let the casserole sit for about five minutes before digging in.
- If you’re baking it later, let it thaw in the refrigerator, and then bake for 25 to 30 minutes covered and then uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown around the edges.
This was cheesy and warm and very simple—everything I look for in a quick weeknight meal. In my case, I made a double batch, baking one for Joey and I that night and assembling another to deliver to someone I thought could use a night off from cooking.
If you decide to follow suit, I highly recommend using a large stock pot to cook in. I ended up having some trouble with fitting all the ingredients in my large skillet.
And even if you don’t have someone to deliver this to, you might make a double batch and freeze one for yourself for a future evening that you need a night off.
Sometimes a gift to yourself can be just as comforting.
This piece first appeared in print on Feb. 18, 2021.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.