Layers of spaghetti, creamy cheese, and a hearty meat sauce make this easy recipe picky eater friendly and a family favorite!
🗝️ Key takeaways
- Cheesy, hearty pasta casserole takes just 30 minutes and you can assemble it ahead of time.
- Great for busy weeknights. It's also perfect for casual get-togethers, and potlucks because it feeds a crowd.
- Be sure to use a block of cheese and shred it yourself. It will melt creamier and smoother.
There's nothing more comforting than a good spaghetti casserole.
Million-dollar spaghetti is a hearty, budget-friendly casserole that is a mash-up between a lasagna and a baked spaghetti recipe.
It's full of layers of spaghetti, rich marinara, seasoned ground beef, and creamy cheese... with a gooey cheese topping.
If you're looking for something with a bit more spice to it try this spicy chicken mac and cheese!
Use your favorite sauce. I use homemade marinara sauce when I have time but store bought works just as well.
If you like Italian sausage you can make this with a combination of ground beef and sausage. You can also substitute it for all the ground beef.
- Use Italian sausage in place of half or all of the ground beef for extra flavor.
- You can substitute ground chicken, turkey, or game meat for the ground beef.
- Ricotta cheese can be substituted for cottage cheese.
- Provolone can be used as the top layer instead of Mozzarella.
- Add a little Parmesan cheese as well.
- Some people like it with Cheddar cheese on top.
- Add a sprinkle of crushed red peppers for a little more bite.
- Use any type of pasta that you like.
- Love cheese? Double the ingredients in the creamy filling.
Next time try this southern chicken spaghetti with Ro*tel!
Note: This is an overview of the instructions for this million-dollar spaghetti recipe. The full instructions are in the green recipe card below.
- Add the slices of butter to the casserole dish.
- Add half the cooked spaghetti.
- Top with cream cheese mixture.
- Add the mozzarella over the cheese layer.
- Top with spaghetti noodles then meat mixture.
- Add remaining sauce.
- Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
- Put baking dish in the oven and bake.
This easy spaghetti bake should be covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.
You can even assemble it ahead of time and bake it when ready.
You can freeze it before or after baking. Just cover tightly or place in an airtight container and freeze for up to four months.
Thaw and bake
Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking as instructed in the recipe.
If the dish has been in the refrigerator let it sit out on the counter for 30 minutes or so so the glass doesn't shatter with the quick temperature change when it goes in the oven.
💭 Things to know
Expert Tip: I like to break the spaghetti up into thirds before cooking. The smaller-sized noodles make it easier to cut and serve.
- This is a good dish for sneaking in vegetables if you have veggie-haters at your house. Chop them and add in with the hearty meat sauce mixture.
- Let the million-dollar spaghetti casserole sit for about 5-10 minutes after you remove it from the oven. This gives it a chance to solidify a little and it won't fall apart (much) when you cut into it to serve.
- Use lean ground beef. I like the 90/10 mix.
- For best results don't use low-fat cream cheese in this recipe.
- The recipe says to put part of the marinara sauce on the spaghetti. How much you add depends on your taste. If you like a real saucy spaghetti dish then add more. The sauce will not sink down and mix with the spaghetti so get it the way you like it before layering.
- This is one of my favorite meals for potlucks! It doesn't have to be steaming hot to be good AND it's easy to take with you. Plus it makes a ton. I've never brought any leftovers home - the dish is always clean.
Here are the questions I am most frequently asked about this recipe.
Well, because it tastes like a million dollars! It's a super rich casserole and I imagine that's where the name comes from.
Yes, you can. Make sure you freeze it in an aluminum baking pan so there's no concern for breakage. Cover with aluminum foil and bake covered for about 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 20 minutes longer, or until it is hot all the way through. I stick an Insta-read thermometer in the center. When it reads 165F it's done.
📚 Related recipes
🍽️ Serve with...
If you take a look at what to serve with chicken spaghetti you'll find a lot of side dishes that will work with this million-dollar spaghetti, too.
And for dessert? You just can't go wrong with these easy brownies.
📞 The last word
My whole family loved this pasta dish.
I've learned a few things over the years that I've made it. For one thing, use block Mozzarella and shred it yourself.
I was in a hurry and grabbed a bag of shredded from Costco. It had so much cellulose stuff on it to keep it from sticking together that it didn't melt at all - it was still just strips of cheese. I had to have my son run to the store for a block of Mozzarella while I scraped it off and then added the real stuff.
It was frustrating so don't make this mistake!
Try this over the top Crack Chicken Spaghetti with Ranch seasoning, bacon and green onions, too!
If you click on the number of servings in the recipe card you can adjust the measurements up or down for the exact number of servings you need.
If you love this recipe please give it 5 stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Million Dollar Spaghetti BakePrint Pin Recipe Save Saved!
- 8 tablespoons butter, sliced
- 2 pounds ground beef, lean
- ½ cup cottage cheese, or ricotta
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 3 cups Mozzarella, grated
- 1 cup onions, diced
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 pound spaghetti, broken into thirds
- 3 cloves garlic
- 48 ounces marinara sauce
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
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- Preheat the oven to 350°
- Cook spaghetti in salted, boiling water - don't overcook!
- Drain. Add 12 ounces (½ a jar) of marinara sauce to the spaghetti and set aside.
- Add onion and ground beef to pan.
- Saute until beef is cooked and onion is almost translucent.
- Add garlic, smoked paprika, and 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning; cook for a minute or two more.
- Drain excess fat from pan.
- Add half the sauce to the meat mixture and stir well. Set aside.
- Heat the cream cheese in the microwave until soft.
- Mix ½ cup of the Mozzarella, sour cream, cottage cheese, and cream cheese with 1 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning.
- Blend until smooth and well mixed.
- Place 8 squares of butter in the bottom of the 13x9-inch pan.
- Cover with half the spaghetti.
- Spoon the cheese mixture over the spaghetti and gently smooth into a layer.
- Sprinkle with 1-½ cups of Mozzarella.
- Cover with the remaining spaghetti.
- Add the meat sauce in a smooth layer.
- Add the remaining sauce over the meat.
- Cover with the remaining cheese.
- Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
- Check and if the cheese is getting too brown cover with aluminum foil and bake 10-15 more minutes - or until the center registers 165° on an insta-read thermometer.
- Remove from the oven and let stand 5-10 minutes.
- I like to break the spaghetti up into thirds before cooking. The smaller sized noodles make it easier to cut and serve.
- This is a good dish for sneaking in vegetables if you have veggie-haters at your house. Chop them and add in with the meat and sauce mixture.
- Let the million dollar spaghetti casserole sit for about 5-10 minutes after you remove it from the oven. This gives it a chance to solidify a little and it won't fall apart (much) when you cut into it to serve.
- Use a lean ground beef. I like the 90/10 mix.
- If the dish has been in the refrigerator let it sit out on the counter for 30 minutes or so so the glass doesn't shatter with the quick temperature change when it goes in the oven.
Nutrition information is estimated as a courtesy. If using for medical purposes, please verify information using your own nutritional calculator. Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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First published April 21, 2021. Last updated September 20, 2023, for editorial corrections and improvements.