Thursday, March 11, 2010

Good Advice and Spaghetti Pie

At my bridal shower (over ten years ago), the hostess passed around a journal and the ladies all wrote down some advice for my plunge into married life. It was all very good advice, like that from my Aunt Vivian’s mother Cathy: “Let Harry make all of the big decisions and you can make all of the small ones…of course there won’t be any of those big decisions.” Then there’s the bit from my Grandma Lorraine that I wish I had the ability to follow a little more carefully: “Bite your tongue occasionally (quite a bit). Mine is full of holes.”

But the easiest piece of advice to follow was from my mother’s aunt Helen: “Once in a while cook his favorite meal as a surprise.” Maybe I don’t get the surprise part down so well, because I can’t stop talking about what I’m going to cook next. Last time I made Spaghetti Pie, however, I managed to keep it under my hat until a whole day before I made it. Harry was appropriately surprised. And very happy.

Not only is this one of Harry’s favorite meals, but it also has a high nostalgia quotient because it was one of the first recipes I tried when I decided I wanted to teach myself to cook. I think I’ve been making it for nearly ten years now. The problem is, with so many new recipes to try (I’ve posted over 90 in these pages already, and those are just some of the good ones) I don’t make Spaghetti Pie nearly often enough. Another problem was that the original recipe just made too much and I would get tired of the leftovers and wouldn’t want to make it again any time soon. The simple solution was to scale down the recipe. I won’t tell you how many years it took me to figure that out.

This casserole is a layer of spaghetti noodles topped with a mixture of sour cream, softened cream cheese, and green onions. This, in turn, is topped with a beefy tomato sauce, then a layer of gooey melted cheese. I’m sure you could use ground turkey in place of the beef in the sauce, and, while I like the flavor of cheddar cheese on top, you could probably use something else that melts well, such as Monterey Jack, or mozzarella.

Since this is a food blog I won’t be giving any marital advice, but I will say that if you’re just learning to cook and these flavors look good to you, this is a solid recipe to try. If you’re a seasoned veteran, it’s quite easy and won’t take much of your time. If you’re feeding a larger crew this recipe can be doubled, and the leftovers heat nicely in the microwave.

I may not know the universal secrets to wedded bliss, but Harry doesn’t seem to have become tired of me yet. Thanks to all the good advice, and the Spaghetti Pie (even the leftovers), I must be doing something right.

Spaghetti Pie
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine.

4 ounces uncooked spaghetti noodles
8 ounces ground beef (I used ground chuck)
½ tsp salt, divided
¼ tsp black pepper, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
¾ cups sour cream
¼ cup chopped green onions
¼ cup (2 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1. Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until it is slightly underdone. You want it to be a little more firm than you would eat it on its own. It will cook a little more in the oven later. Drain the noodles and place them into a 1-quart casserole or baking dish.

2. Cook the beef in a medium-size skillet over medium heat until browned. Stir often to crumble. Stir in the ¼ teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and garlic and cook 1 minute more.

3. Stir in the tomato sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the mixture has thickened.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, green onions, cream cheese, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Spread the mixture over the spaghetti in the casserole dish. Pour the meat sauce over the top. Cover with the cheddar cheese.

5. Cover the dish and bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly. Remove from the oven and cool at least 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 3-4 servings.


  1. Hey- My kids might actually eat this! I'll give it a whirl, Wittbrodt style.

  2. Since the green onions do maintain some of their vegetable texture after baking, if the kids don't like that texture, you could leave them out and perhaps add a bit of onion powder for flavor instead.

  3. I was just thinking, what if you have someone (I think you know who) who doesn't eat green onions. Excellent. I think we're going to try this one soon.