Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti

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Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti is creamy with a melty cheese center, topped with meat sauce and extra bubbly cheese.

Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti is creamy with a melty cheese center, topped with meat sauce and extra bubbly cheese. Tastes like a cross between baked ziti and lasagna with half the effort!Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti is a hit in our house every time we make it and it isn’t hard to see why. With melted cheese, cream cheese, meat and homemade marinara sauce, and perfect as a make ahead meal you can freeze, this dish is a perfect meal in a pan and even better served with a nice side salad.

It may seem like there is a lot of meat and cheese going on in this 9×13 pan, but we frequently get 12 portions out of the meal, 9 if we’ve got a lot of hungry people to serve. The flavors are rich enough that a smaller portion is enough to satisfy.

Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti is creamy with a melty cheese center, topped with meat sauce and extra bubbly cheese. Tastes like a cross between baked ziti and lasagna with half the effort!

If you’re looking for alternative flavor ideas to the classic meat sauce here are some fun options we’ve gone with in the past:

  • Chunks of cooked chicken with a creamy Alfredo sauce (optional you can also toss in frozen peas)
  • Italian sausage instead of ground beef.
  • Roasted vegetables like zucchini, eggplant and red onion in place of meat.
  • Spinach, lemon juice and lemon zest with a creamy Alfredo sauce.
  • Pepperoni, chopped bell peppers, onions and sliced olives in place of meat for a combination pizza flavor

Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti is creamy with a melty cheese center, topped with meat sauce and extra bubbly cheese. Tastes like a cross between baked ziti and lasagna with half the effort!

I frequently make this Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti in a double quantity so I can have one tray to serve and one to freeze. For making ahead the only difference in the directions would be to follow all the steps until it says to put it in the oven. At that point, top with foil and freeze. To serve I highly recommend you remove from the freezer the day before you plan on serving so it can defrost in the fridge. If you don’t remember to remove it, you can expect your cook time to be about an hour long at least. ย But look at the beautiful tray of Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti you’ll be left with:

Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti is creamy with a melty cheese center, topped with meat sauce and extra bubbly cheese. Tastes like a cross between baked ziti and lasagna with half the effort!

I usually let the Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti cool for about 5-10 minutes when it comes out of the oven. I find it is easier to cut into perfect squares using my favorite silicone spatula and in our house everyone is obsessed with the shape of it. I tried serving with tongs once and you would’ve thought I’d committed a crime. Can’t blame them though, it does look pretty cool cut neatly.

Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti is creamy with a melty cheese center, topped with meat sauce and extra bubbly cheese. Tastes like a cross between baked ziti and lasagna with half the effort!

Recipe

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Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti

5
  • Yield: 9 servings
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Course: Main
  • Cuisine: American
Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti is creamy with a melty cheese center, topped with meat sauce and extra bubbly cheese. Tastes like a cross between baked ziti and lasagna with half the effort!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti , cooked two minutes shy of directions and drained
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion , chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic , minced
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper)
  • 6 cups Quick and Easy Marinara Sauce
  • 8 ounces cream cheese , softened
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • parsley , chopped (optional as a garnish)

Instructions

Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large skillet add the beef, onions, garlic, salt and pepper into the pan and cook on high.
  3. Once browned, turn off the heat, drain the liquid left in the pan and mix in one cup of the marinara sauce.
  4. Add the cooked spaghetti to the remaining 5 cups of the marinara sauce and toss to combine.
  5. Mix the cream cheese and 2 cups of mozzarella cheese in a bowl.
  6. Add half the pasta/sauce to the bottom of a 9x13 pan.
  7. Add the cream cheese mixture and top with the remaining pasta/sauce mixture.
  8. Add the meat sauce mixture on top of the pasta and top with remaining cup of mozzarella cheese.
  9. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
  10. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly

Nutrition Information

Yield: 9 servings, Amount per serving: calories

All images and text ยฉ for Dinner, then Dessert, Inc.

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Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti is creamy with a melty cheese center, topped with meat sauce and extra bubbly cheese. Tastes like a cross between baked ziti and lasagna with half the effort!

Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti is creamy with a melty cheese center, topped with meat sauce and extra bubbly cheese. Tastes like a cross between baked ziti and lasagna with half the effort!
Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti is creamy with a melty cheese center, topped with meat sauce and extra bubbly cheese. Tastes like a cross between baked ziti and lasagna with half the effort!
Baked Million Dollar Spaghetti is creamy with a melty cheese center, topped with meat sauce and extra bubbly cheese. Tastes like a cross between baked ziti and lasagna with half the effort!

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Comments

    1. You won’t believe this, but I am here looking for tips to achieve a very dry, baked spaghetti! I frequent a good, local cafeteria and always look for their baked spaghetti that has set on the line too long and probably looks unappetizing to most people. When rather dry, the flavors are concentrated and really delicious, to me. When the same stuff is “wet,” it has zero appeal to my palate. Am I all alone on this?

      1. Nope, not at all. If you add 75% of the sauce, add a couple extra tablespoons of tomato paste and bake uncovered you’re going to find what you’re looking for ๐Ÿ™‚ The tomato paste will help concentrate those flavors for you even more!

  1. It’s in the oven as I write this. It’s pretty much over flowing the pan, so next time I’ll probably use a bigger pan. I’ll post later with results. I know it looks Devine. And I did add mushrooms to my sauce. Can’t wait to eat now!

  2. This was amazing! I was leery about the cream cheese, but I gotta say that totally completed this. It made it so rich and creamy. Definitely a 5 star keeper!!!

  3. Mine didn’t look as pretty as yours but oh my goodness did it taste good! My (very) picky 4 and 7 yr olds ate it without complaint! Yay! Thanks for sharing such a great recipe!

  4. This looks incredible! Do you know if zucchini noodles would hold up in the oven for someone aiming to save a few carbs?

    1. I think if you cook for less time, don’t try and get the browning on the top for the zoodles and it would probably turn out great.

  5. i have to say i was a little bit skeptical when i first saw this recipe with cream cheese in it, then i tried it well i experimented on my aunt first everyone loved it. definitely making it again taste like lasagna with half the effort.

    1. If you’re talking about the “save” button inside the recipe card, I’m currently using a service called BigOven – you need to have an account with them to save it there. I think most people prefer to save my recipes using Yummly or Pinterest though! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Made this for dinner last night and it was delicious! Definitely adding this recope to the frequent flyer list. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I find if I have issues with that a quick zap in the microwave and a bit of water mixed in make it easy to spread, but I usually have no trouble with it when it is totally softened.

  7. I made this for dinner last night and it was a hit. We have 4 picky eaters and they ate it up and even asked for seconds. My husband who has never ate baked spaghetti before even went back for more and had a total of 3 plates.

  8. Looks delicious! I don’t have cream cheese on hand now and I need to make a pasta dish in the am. Do you think I could substitute ricotta? Sorry I wouldn’t try to change this amazing recipe if I had cream cheese in the fridge. Can’t wait to try it!

    1. Sorry the message got snagged in the spam filter. I would use ricotta in a pinch too, it may not melt as well but I am 100% sure it would be delicious!

      1. Sorry a little confused @ step4. Are you saying mix the oils and juices from ground beef with 1 cup marinara??? If so too late, I already poored juiced off w/o using.

  9. Love!
    Next time instead of cream cheese-which WAS very good- I am thinking of trying a ricotta/marscapone mix. My son loved this and he eats NOTHING! thank you for a wonderful stress free dinner, finally!

    1. Yes, you can make that substitution. The flavor may change a bit due to extra seasoning that might be in the sauce but nothing drastic. Enjoy!

  10. Im a little disappointed but it’s totally my fault. I got lazy & bought just any cheese & cream cheese that I found at my local Hispanic market. Turns out, neither of them melted. AT ALL!!!!!! It looked nothing like it did on the picture above. It’s ok though, this won’t be my last try. Will be making sometime in the near future. ?

  11. Hi! I’m planning on making this for a group of about 40, but I wanted to make this, a white and chicken based version, and a veggie version. Did you change anything else when you tried this with chicken and alfredo sauce? Or the spinach and lemon juice/zest and alfredo sauce? If so, what did you change? Thanks so much for the help!!

    1. If you’re doing the alfredo sauce version and you find your alfredo sauce is sort of thick I’d add a bit of milk to make it thinner. Remember as it bakes it is going to thicken so start with a much looser consistency. With the veggie version depending on the vegetable I wouldn’t add more time. If you add things like carrots or potatoes then yes but if it is things like peas, or bell peppers or squash I wouldn’t bother altering the time. Just keep the pieces small, maybe 3/4 inch or smaller.

  12. Serious success in my house tonight! One bite & my daughter said “OMG!” And I’m no cook! I used our favorite store bought sauce & it worked perfectly. I use onion powder because I hate onions. Tasted fine. I have a problem with cream cheese. Just not my thing. But it was still yummy! Could I try this with ricotta & mozzarella mixed instead? Not sure if you’re still checking comments?!

  13. Just wondering if this can be put together a day in advance and wait till next day to bake? I would like to make it to take to a friend whose father passed away. But I want to put it together tonight and take it to them refrigerated tomorrow so they can put it in the oven.

    1. So sorry this got caught in my spam folder. Yes, you can either put it together ahead of time to bake the next day or even bake it and refrigerate it to reheat.

  14. This looks great! If I freeze it after I make it, how long and at what temperature do I cook it in the oven? Same as in the recipe?

  15. Have you tried a smaller pan? Perhaps 2 8x8s instead of 1 9×13? I’m making this as we prep some freezer meals before baby. And I think 9×13 is too big for just my husband and I, without having dayssss of leftovers.ย 

    1. So glad I read your suggestion for the two 8×8’s pan. How long did you cook them? I’d like to cook one and freeze one. Can’t wait.

  16. I’m not quick to award 5 stars but this recipe was so deserving! And for the sheer fact that my finished product looked EXACTLY like the original picture. And, it was nothing short of delicious. I made half the recipe but used 3/4 lbs of ground beef. It fit perfectly into a 7×11 pan. I also used a jar of high quality marinara. When I do make a full batch, I’ll use 2 lbs of beef and bake in the next size up from a 9×13 pan. Otherwise, no substitutions are needed, as it’s divine in flavor and texture. I agree that allowing it to stand for 10 minutes prior to serving (which I did, much to my impatient husband’s chagrin) is a must. Thank you for such a lovely, simple recipe. This is truly so easy, which is what busy cooks are seeking! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Yes, waiting is the hardest part but I’m glad you were able to convince your husband it’s worth the wait, haha! I’m so glad you loved it and thank you for the 5 stars ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Made this last night and it was delicious! Like most I was hesitant about the cream cheese and mozzarella, but it was awesome! Thanks for the recipe! Next time I will make two and freeze the other! I’m a busy mom of three and constantly going and everyone loved this recipe!

    Rating: 5
  18. I made 5 trays for our high school varsity football dinner and it was a hit! Delicious and filling,I served it with garlic bread and salad (sadly untouched!). Thanks for the amazing recipe!

    Rating: 5
    1. How awesome…about them loving the dish not the untouched salad part!! I’m so glad everyone enjoyed it! Thank you so much for the 5 star rating!

  19. I add two beaten eggs and do white and yellow cheddar with parmesan. Sometimes I add some buttered bread crumbs for a little crunch! So amazing! Best left overs!!!

    Rating: 5
  20. This was absolutely delicious!! Substituted cream cheese with cottage cheese ๐Ÿ™‚ and added 2 eggs and parmesan to spaghetti.

  21. Ugh! New job requires me to cook either the night before or 5 am so fam can can a nice dinner before I get home. Here is my question:
    Should i bake this dish in its entirety? Or prepare it to the point of not baking it and have one of the kiddos (both teenager) pop it in the oven the following evening?

    1. First off, congrats on the new job! You could honestly do it either way but personally, I would put it all together the night before and have one of your teens put it in the oven to finish. It’s going to need to bake in the oven a little bit longer from being in the refrigerator overnight (maybe an additional 10 min). Enjoy!!

  22. Can you tell me what does the cream cheese do to this dish? and is it ok if I just use regular pasta sauce instead of making from scratch

    1. It just gives it pockets of creaminess. You could also use ricotta cheese if you’d like. Store bought pasta sauce can be used for this too. Definitely a time saver! Enjoy!!

    1. You can do it either way ๐Ÿ™‚ If you decide to freeze before cooking, I recommend thawing it in the refrigerator the day before placing in in the oven. You might need to add additional time to the cook time based on how thawed out it is. Enjoy!!

    1. You made my day! Anytime I can get the little ones to enjoy something I feel like I have won the lottery! Thanks for taking the time to come back and let me know!

  23. Thank you for this recipe. It was so easy, (way easier than lasagna) and my guests loved it. It is now my new go to dinner party main dish.ย 

    Rating: 5
  24. ย Really enjoyed this million dollars spaghetti. My husband loved it also. Makes a lot. One thing. How do you spread the cream cheese and cheese on the noodles. Do you let your first?

    Rating: 5
    1. I’m so glad you all enjoyed it! To answer your question, I don’t really spread it on per say. I drop it in scoops on top. You can find a video on my facebook page of this recipe to help you out too.

  25. Made this tonight and it turned out amazing!! Had to stop myself from eating more and more! I added Parmesan with mozzarella! Will use this recipe for years to come!!

    Rating: 5
  26. Would it be possible to make this with Vodka Sauce instead of marinara sauce?? I have some at home so I didnโ€™t know if you have tried this.

  27. Nice recipe, but you never never put foil on top of tomato sauce, it will corrode the foil and ruin your dish, you should always use plastic wrap under the foil, or another type cover. Perhaps this hasn’t happened since you put in freezer immediately after covering but if left in fridge or on a counter it will happen.

  28. This is delicious! Do you think this would turn out good without the meat? I have a friend Iโ€™m making this for and she would prefer it to be meatless.ย 

    Rating: 5
  29. This is my 3rd time making this dish my whole family loves it! the first time I made it I used a 13×9 and it was too much for my family of 5, so now I make two 8×8 pans that I get from the dollar tree and freeze one and cook one. I love that every time I make this dish its like a two for one; not only is it amazing but then I’m also getting a free night of cooking for another day! SO glad I found this recipe! Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    Rating: 5
  30. Ive made this several times and it is delish! I was wondering though can u sub ricotta cheese for cream cheese? How do you think that will affect the taste?

  31. Hello! If we are to make this with chicken and Alfredo sauce, would we still add the cream cheese mix in the middle?

  32. I made โ€˜โ€˜tis and it was great but I used 3 jars of Newmanโ€™s sausebutthe mixture with the cheese and cream cheese was very lumpy and very difficult to spread nonetheless it worked ok. Next time I will use ricotta instead of cream cheese. Thatโ€™s my opinion.

  33. I made this using my own pasta sauce and baked it a little bit longer. It was a big hit. Hubby said next we have pasta make it like this!!! Super easy

    Rating: 5
  34. I’ve made a similar pasta dish a long time ago. I used a egg noodles and barely pre cooked them, before layering with other similar ingredients. Egg noodles didn’t become overcooked and “mushy”. Better texture. I also used sour cream, cottage cheese, parmesan cheeses mixture, with mozzarella om top. Just a different recipe to try !

  35. This looks amazing. Question: can this be made ahead of time? Can I make it the night before I need it? Like prepare it then bake it the next day?
    Thanks!

  36. Made this tonight and hubby loved it. Said it was “very cheesy”. A good thing! Thanks for the recipe!

    Rating: 5
  37. This was absolutely delicious! All my family, ages 1 to 78, loved it! Thank you! Made this to take to my family after losing a family member and his widow said that was the first thing she had ate in 6 days. This food is good for the soul! Thx for sharing

    Rating: 5
  38. Absolutely delicious. I made a meat version (for my hubby and son) and a meatless version (for daughter and myself). My daughter ate 2 helpings. So good! Thank you for sharing!

    Rating: 5
  39. 6 cups of sauce left it very dry so it was a big fail for us tonight. It would be good if really moist and gooey. If I try it again, I wil expect to use at least 8 cups.

  40. I dont have an oven. Do you think this would work on high in a crockpot, or do you think it would come out to mushy? I have an oblong crockpot.

    Rating: 5
  41. I’d like to try this recipe but I’m pregnant and can’t have soft cheeses like cream cheese. Can you recommend how to alter this recipe to accommodate that? Thanks!

    1. Congrats on your pregnancy!
      I think Philadelphia cream cheese is on the ok list as long as you check it’s pasteurised. You can also use ricotta cheese.

  42. Tasted great. Loved the cream cheese mozzarella middle. I used store bought marinara but next time I will use the recipe from this site.

    Rating: 5
  43. This was fabulous!!! Stuck during Hurricane Florence trying to make dinner for three very picky kids and extended family. Everyone loved it! Served with a bowl of extra sauce and was a complete winner. Thanks so much!

    Rating: 5
  44. 4.5 stars (would have been 5, if pan depth was specified)

    Did not fit in corning/pyrex baking dish. Thought this would be bland but was I surprised! The cream cheese gave it all that was needed. Not too wet, not too dry and reheats well. It’s a keeper !

  45. Delicious, perfect just as written! I didnโ€™t change a thing except substituted ground deer for beef. Everyone in my family loved it!

    Rating: 5
  46. I just made this yesterday for my family. It was amazing and super easy to put together, made it in no time flat! My family just kept raving about how delicious it was and said it was a keeper and oh…to PLEASE make it again, which I most definitely will. Even my 13 yr old great-nephew said it was GOOD. Quick note…I used Angel Hair pasta, just my preference instead of spaghetti. Thank you for sharing your wonderful recipe… ?

    Rating: 5
  47. I want to make this for a dinner party. I plan to make it the day before, but donโ€™t plan to freeze it. Should I just follow all directions except for putting it in the oven? Should I cover and refrigerate and cook about an hour before serving?

  48. This looks delish!! The only thing I had trouble with was spreading the cream cheese mixture as a layer? It just clumped up and a mess of noodles and cream cheese. Just curious what you did? I

    1. It’s such a delicious dish! Next time, try putting dollops of the mixture as a layer vs spreading it on. It will melt into a flatter layer and you’ll get yummy pockets of it. Hope this helps!

  49. Great recipe my family and friends love it. I did a little twist to it to fit us better like more sauce and cheese.

    Rating: 5