This is a perfect recipe for when you want to use fresh, authentic ingredients. A perfect recipe for when you know that three cheeses will be better than one. A perfect recipe to make a flavorful sauce that infuses right-in-to the pasta for even more flavor. THE perfect recipe because you can make all of that in just one pan, and have it ready to serve in 30 minutes.
Skillet Baked Spaghetti couldn’t be easier and I promise it’s foolproof. A couple of important notes before starting; first and most important, use AT LEAST a 12-inch skillet, the deeper the better. I used a deep, well-used cast iron skillet for non-stick cooking and to hold all the ingredients without spill-overs. Second, see the special notes in the printable recipe for a clever way to break up the pasta noodles before cooking.
Let’s break down the recipe steps here:
Once you’ve browned and drained your meat, it’s time to add all the spices, tomatoes, sauce and water. Then you will add the broken pasta and gently stir to incorporate all the ingredients and make sure the pasta is wet to prevent sticking.
Bring the sauce and noodles to a boil, then cover the mixture but stir it occasionally to continue to mix all the ingredients and help the pasta soften down into the meat sauce. After about 14 minutes, the noodles will be soft and the mixture is ready for the cheese. The noodles will continue to soak up the sauce a bit more as it sits.
Stir the cubed cream cheese into the mixture to melt, sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan and heat under the broiler until the cheese melts and the top is golden.
After the skillet is finished under the broiler, this dish can sit on the counter for five minutes or more before serving and it will still be nice and hot.
The combination of cream cheese, mozzarella and Parmesan in the skillet baked spaghetti adds a creamy mellow flavor with just the right amount of bite. Oregano, basil, and thyme are signature Italian flavors. And the fact that the pasta noodles cooked in the flavorful sauce rather than separately in boiling water makes every bite taste like it simmered all day rather than in just a few minutes.
This recipe has become a regular at my house when I want fresh, homemade goodness without a lot of work. I hope it becomes a regular at your house too.
- 1 pound ground beef 80/20 (or turkey)
- ¼ pound mild or spicy Italian sausage
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- 12 ounces spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces (see note)
- 2 cans (15-ounces each) crushed tomatoes
- 1 can (15-ounce) tomato sauce
- 3 cups water
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened and cubed
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
- ¼ to ½ cup chopped fresh parsley for garnish
- In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet (see note above) that is oven-safe, cook the ground beef and sausage with the garlic and red pepper flakes over medium to medium-high heat, breaking the meat into small pieces, until the meat is cooked through, 5-6 minutes. Drain any excess grease.
- Stir in the oregano, basil, thyme, spaghetti, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, salt and pepper. The skillet will be very full! Just stir carefully, lifting the pasta up and over to get everything well combined.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook, covered, stirring every once in a while to prevent sticking and break up the noodles, for 12-14 minutes, until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. It's ok if it still looks quite liquidy as it will continue to thicken while it broils and rests. While the pasta cooks, preheat the broiler.
- Stir in the cubed cream cheese until it has melted and combined with the pasta. Sprinkle the mozzarella and ¼ cup Parmesan cheeses over the top and broil until golden and bubbly, 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the skillet from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes or so. Grate more Parmesan and sprinkle with chopped parsley just before serving.
Slightly adapted from a recipe I got from my blogging mentor, Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.