This easy baked spaghetti has ground beef, marinara sauce, a middle layer of creamy pesto, and mozzarella cheese. Pure comfort! Jump to the Easy Baked Spaghetti Recipe with Mozzarella or read on to see our tips for making it.
This has everything we love about spaghetti and meat sauce. Plus there’s a creamy layer of sour cream mixed with pesto and mozzarella on top.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: A meaty lasagna recipe with Italian sausage, ground beef, and cheese. Plus, our tips for making it in advance. Jump to the full Sausage and Beef Lasagna Recipe.
How to Make the Best Baked Pasta
This baked pasta recipe comes together quickly. We love pasta and red sauce, but we love it even more when we add sweet cooked onions and ground beef.
Cook onions and the beef until the onions are soft and the beef has browned. Then we pour in marinara sauce (try our homemade version). Bring it to a simmer then toss with cooked spaghetti.
Undercook the spaghetti by 1 to 2 minutes. This way, when we toss it with the marinara sauce and bake, the pasta won’t become mushy.
Now you could stop there, but if you’re up for it add a layer of sour cream mixed with some basil pesto. We just smear it over about half of the pasta then cover with the rest of the pasta. It’s divine.
Last step is to top with mozzarella cheese, cover, and bake.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Quick and easy baked ziti recipe with fresh spinach, artichokes, and a creamy pesto layer (just like this recipe). Jump to the Easy Baked Ziti Recipe.
Recipe updated, originally posted November 2012. Since posting this in 2012, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne
Easy Baked Spaghetti Recipe with Mozzarella
This delicious and baked spaghetti has ground beef, marinara sauce, and a middle layer of creamy pesto. If you are like us, this will become your new favorite meal! To make this meatless, just remove the beef – the spaghetti will still be delicious. Or add some cooked mushrooms and zucchini.
You Will Need
1 pound pasta, such as spaghetti or linguini
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
6 cups marinara sauce, see our homemade marinara sauce recipe (or substitute with two 26-ounce jars store-bought sauce)
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup basil pesto, see our homemade basil pesto recipe
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated (about 1 cup)
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Prepare Pasta
- To Finish
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the pasta then follow package directions, but cook 1 to 2 minutes less than the package calls for. Drain.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet with sides. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. As the beef cooks, use a wooden spoon to break the beef up into small pieces in the pan. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
Drain excess fat from the beef. Pour in the marinara sauce and cook until heated through. Take the pan off of the heat and add the cooked and drained pasta. Toss well then taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and black pepper.
In a small bowl, stir sour cream and basil pesto together until well blended.
Spoon half of the pasta into the baking dish. Spread the sour cream and pesto mixture over the pasta and scatter with half of the mozzarella cheese. Top with the remaining pasta, lightly press everything down into the baking dish, and then scatter remaining mozzarella cheese on top.
Place the baking dish onto an aluminum-lined baking dish (just in case any sauce drips over the sides of the baking dish). Bake until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling; about 30 minutes. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- If making ahead, you can cover and refrigerate, unbaked up to 2 days. When you cover, use parchment or wax paper between the spaghetti and aluminum foil. Aluminum foil can react with the tomatoes.
- The meat sauce can be made in advance and should last in your refrigerator up to 3 days and in your freezer for about 3 months. We recommend using freezer-safe glass containers, or double layers of freezer bags to store sauces. To thaw, simply leave it overnight in the refrigerator.
- Baked spaghetti also freezes well. Let it cool completely on a rack before freezing, and then wrap it very well with foil (we use two layers). Defrost the frozen spaghetti overnight in the refrigerator and then bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour.