I used to resist making baked spaghetti. Quite frankly, for a long time what crossed my mind was “why bother with the extra work?”
I mean, great. Instead of tossing the spaghetti with the sauce and serving, you toss it, bake it, and serve it. It’s a bit drier, but that’s it. Right?
Well, yes and no. See, I took a good hard look at some of the recipes, and realized that baked spaghetti isn’t really a wasted step for spaghetti. It’s an opportunity to make a variation of lasagna, and one which allows a BETTER mingling of the flavors.
It also happens to be easier (in my experience) to make small and/or deep “lasagna” dishes.
Look, lasagna is technically any pasta dish made with lasagna noodles. But practically, it’s alternating layers of pasta, goodies, and cheese, with sauce liberally applied at frequent intervals. The PROBLEM with the lasagna noodles that I tend to have is that the layers slide off each other unless the piece is “large enough”. Large enough is very filling, but tends to be waaaay too many calories for most of us.
So just for giggles, I broke down and made a baked spaghetti but NOT by any of the baked spaghetti recipes I had. Instead, I softened the spaghetti noodles, opened up one of the lasagna recipes I like, and made lasagna with the spaghetti noodles. Just a thin layer of noodles, then stack the cheese and the sauce and the meat and more noodles and… yeah, you’ve been there, you get the idea.
Small slices didn’t usually slide apart as – not surprisingly – much of the binding had slid between the noodles. Even where they did, it was easy to pick up several flavors on a fork – no more glaring naked noodle on the plate.
Yep, you guessed it, I’m not giving a recipe this time – I’m giving a technique. Since I tried it with classic lasagna techniques I’ve succeeded with a number of variations. Heck, one that’s popular in my house uses spaghetti sauce instead of bechamel, pepperoni slices, bell peppers and onion strips, and grated (yep, cheap store-bought) mozzarella cheese as the layers.
It keeps better than spaghetti for leftovers. It melds the flavors better. It serves cleaner. I no longer resist making baked spaghetti, and in fact it’s more likely I’ll bake it now than that I’ll just toss a batch on the top of the stove.