One of the most comforting of all comfort foods is my mother-in-law’s baked spaghetti. She told me how to make it, but it was never as good as when she made it. I even made it in her kitchen with her magic cast iron skillet, and did it exactly as I was told, but it wasn’t it! After all these years, I am finally getting close to her wonderful, comforting spaghetti. Basically, the key is to over cook the spaghetti. This goes against every grain of my being. It is very difficult for me to cook pasta past the al dente stage. Just get over yourself and do it! Also, why not just buy a big can of diced tomatoes and not break up the whole ones?! If you did that, it’s NOT Grandma’s Spaghetti!
1 lb thin spaghetti
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
28 can whole Italian plum tomatoes
2 – 8 oz cans tomato sauce
garlic powder, to taste
8 oz cheddar cheese, grated – plus more for top
red pepper flakes to serve, optional (but I think manditory!)
Cook spaghetti a couple minutes longer than the package directions. (Yes, I know, just do it).
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Set aside.
In a sauce pan, sauté garlic for a few minutes and then add the bay leaf, oregano, basil, whole Italian plum tomatoes, tomato sauce and garlic powder. Break up the whole tomatoes with a spoon. Simmer sauce for about 20 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked spaghetti, tomato sauce and 8 oz of grated cheddar cheese. Pour spaghetti mixture in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish. Top with more cheddar cheese. Cover and bake at 350˚ for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 15 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.