This million dollar spaghetti recipe has tons of Italian sausage, marinara sauce, and an irresistible cheese filling. It's then topped with even more cheese and baked to golden perfection!
Need something even simpler? Try my Cheesy Baked Spaghetti.
What is million dollar spaghetti?
It's your new favorite pasta bake, that's what! This pasta casserole is so tasty. Rumor has it that when you try a bite, you will feel like a million bucks. All that Italian sausage and cheesy pasta. It's carb and cheese heaven. It's all-out comfort food.
Ok, ok... so this million dollar baked spaghetti does take a little more time to prepare, but it's SO worth it. And it's straightforward to make, not at all complicated! You'll also be saving a few bucks with this fairly inexpensive recipe that easily feeds a crowd.
What you'll need
- Spaghetti - it's layered in this casserole to give lasagna vibes
- Italian sausage - use mild, or hot if you want to bring the heat
- Onion and garlic - classic aromatics for a flavorful base
- Red pepper flakes - there's not enough to make this really spicy! They give a subtle kick.
- Marinara sauce - use a good-quality jarred variety, or make your own Easy Marinara Sauce if you're feeling ambitious. You need two 24 oz. jars for this recipe (6 cups).
- Mozzarella cheese - all that melty goodness on top!
- Cream cheese - either take it out of the fridge a couple of hours before starting the recipe, or microwave it for 20-30 seconds so that it's nice and soft. This makes things go much more smoothly.
- Ricotta cheese - it adds an additional flavorful zip and creaminess to the cheesy inner layer
- Parmesan cheese - can you really make an Italian-American pasta dish without parm? I don't think so.
- Garlic powder - this infuses additional garlic flavor directly into our cheese filling
- Oregano - I love adding a classic Italian herb to complement the cheeses
How to make million dollar spaghetti
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Preheat the oven to 375F. In a bowl add the cream cheese, ricotta, parmesan, garlic powder, and dried oregano. Stir it together until smooth, and set aside. Meanwhile, brown the sausage with the onions. Add in the garlic and red pepper flakes and salt & pepper. Drain any excess fat.
Boil your pasta. Drain and add back into the same pot. Add in the skillet sausage mixture and marinara sauce.
Add half of the pasta mixture to the baking dish and spread in an even layer. Spread the cream cheese mixture from the bowl to make the delicious inner cheese layer.
Add the rest of the pasta mixture to make another layer. Top with the mozzarella, and bake until bubbly, hot, and golden!
Substitutions and variations
- Swap the sausage for ground beef if you prefer, or use a 50/50 mix.
- Craving more heat? Up the quantity of red pepper flakes and/or use hot Italian sausage.
- You can play around with the middle cheese layer if you wish. Try cottage cheese if you don't have ricotta, for example, add mozzarella to the middle layer, leave one of the cheeses out if you need to, or use a different herb blend. The cheese layer is fairly tangy from the cream cheese and ricotta.
- Try swapping the mozzarella topping for a mozza/cheddar blend.
Make ahead tips
- Simply assemble the casserole up to a day ahead, refrigerate, and then bake according to instructions below. You may need to add a few more minutes onto the baking time to ensure the middle is nice and hot.
- To freeze: assemble it in the casserole dish, and then cover it tightly and freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw for 24 hours in the fridge, then bake it as directed. If you need to bake it from frozen, it'll take a bit longer, so bake it (covered with foil) until the middle is hot, then broil the cheese at the end.
- Don't put a freezing cold ceramic casserole dish straight in the oven, though, as there's a chance it'll crack. I'd let it warm up a bit on the counter first!
Tools for this recipe
- I use these tongs for all sorts of recipes, including this one, and I grated the parmesan with my Microplane zester/grater.
- I recommend using a fairly deep 9x13 or similar size casserole/lasagna baking dish for this recipe.
- It should work to halve all ingredients and make it in a 8x8 baking dish if you want a smaller quantity.
Leftovers and storage
- Leftovers will keep for a few days in the fridge. However, the longer you leave them, the less firm the pasta will get, so I'd try to eat them within a day or two.
- Reheat in the microwave or in a covered saucepan on low heat.
- I wouldn't recommend freezing leftovers.
What to serve with million dollar spaghetti
- Extra Cheesy Garlic Bread, a slice of crusty bread, or breadsticks would go great to round out the meal.
- A side salad also is a great choice for a fresh contrast! Try making my homemade Caesar Dressing, Creamy Balsamic Dressing, or even this Chipotle Ranch Dressing to mix it up.
Questions about this million dollar spaghetti casserole? Did you make it? Let me know in the comments below! You can also find me on Instagram.
Million Dollar Spaghetti
- 1 pound uncooked spaghetti
- 1 pound Italian sausage see note
- 1/2 medium onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- 2 (24 ounce) jars marinara sauce
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 8 ounces cream cheese (1 block Philly) softened
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- Preheat your oven to 375F and move the rack to the top third of the oven.
- In a medium bowl, add the cheese layer ingredients and stir them together until you've got a nice, smooth mixture. Set aside.
- Boil a large, salted pot of water for the pasta and cook it 2 minutes less than package directions suggest. Once it's done, drain it and add it back to the same pot it was cooked in.
- Meanwhile, add the sausage meat to a skillet, along with the onion. Cook over medium-high heat, breaking the meat up as you go along, for about 10 minutes or until browned and cooked through.
- To the skillet, stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for about a minute. Spoon out excess fat from the pan.
- Add the skillet mixture to the pot that has the pasta in it, and then pour in the marinara sauce. Toss until everything is coated (this is easiest to do with tongs or two large spoons).
- Add half the pasta/sauce mixture to a 9x13 baking dish, then spread it in an even layer.
- Spread the cheese layer evenly over the pasta/sauce layer. This step can get a little messy. It doesn't have to be done perfectly.
- Add the remaining pasta/sauce mixture and spread it out evenly, then top the casserole with the mozzarella cheese.
- Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and broil for a few minutes (watch it carefully) until the cheese is bubbly and browned.
- Let the casserole sit for 5-10 minutes, then use a spatula to cut it into individual portions. Season with extra salt & pepper if needed. Note: Especially when it's still hot, you won't get nice, even squares with a perfectly even cheese layer. It'll mix together a bit, but I went for plenty of sauce (especially so leftovers aren't dry).
- Use either ground sausage meat or buy sausages and take the meat out of the casings.
- If you need to soften up the cream cheese in a hurry, pop it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds.
- Feel free to change up the cheese layer a bit... you don't need to stick to the cheeses I suggest.
- See process photos within blog post for extra clarity.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.
Kelly Noga says
That was awesome. Everyone went back for seconds. I thought I would have a ton of leftovers. Nope! Well done
Well that's so nice to hear, Kelly! 😀 Thanks for your 5-star review!
Carol Bigler says
I made this recipe but I didn't add cream cheese. I used cottage cheese and mozzarella and parmesan cheese and ground beef instead of sausage. It was delicious . The second time I made it I used a cheaper kind of sauce and it was not as good. I think the first one was Prego w/garlic but I am not certain.We all loved it!!
I'm thrilled it was a hit, Carol!! 😀
Connie King says
So delicious!! Even my cheese hating husband and super picky 13 year old love love love it!!!
That's awesome, Connie! 😀 Thanks for your review!
Amazing big hit with my family...
Thank you so much!! Thrilled they enjoyed it!
Christina S says
Can u make the whole recipie but split it into two containers??? A 9x13 is way to much for us.
You could halve everything and make it in an 8x8. I haven't tested this, but in theory it should work.
Pam Ridgely says
This dish is just as good the second night as the first. Kind of like vegetable soup.
Catherine Yardy says
Thanks for the recipe love it!
You're very welcome! I appreciate your review! 🙂
Pam Huth says
OMG, this is fantastic! The only thing I did differently was to use hot Italian sausage (what I had on hand) and eliminate the red pepper flakes. It was the perfect amount of heat. I cannot say enough about how delicious this casserole is! Thank you so much, Natasha!!
You're very welcome, Pam!! 😀 So happy you liked it. Thanks so much for your 5-star review!
Jenny Campbell says
It takes a lot longer than 15 minutes to prep. More like 45. But it’s worth it in the end if you have the time to prepare it.
Hi Jenny! Everyone goes at their own pace, so it's really hard to gauge a prep time that works for everyone. For me it's about 10-15 minutes. In any case, I'm so glad you liked it!
Can I substitute the sausage for ground beef? If so how much ground beef would I need?
I'd use a pound.
Approximately how many would this feed? I am thinking of doing this for a youth activity at church. Thanks in advance
Hi! In the recipe card it shows the servings. Of course it varies, but I guesstimated 8. It could easily do more if you serve it with something else.
Is the cream cheese a must? I have a picky eater...my husband!! 🙂 Any way to create the layer of cheese without it, or do you think it holds up better with it?
Hi! I'd say that you'll get a more distinctive cheese layer with the cream cheese, but if he hates the taste then I think you'd be ok eliminating it. It's a bit of a messy dish anyway (like when you dish up it gets pretty mixed together lol), so I wouldn't worry too much about it not holding up as well. Hope you guys enjoy the recipe! 🙂
really nice. i think the cheese combo was nice. tweaked the recipe to my own standards.
Can you freeze it? If so how do you recommend doing so?
Hi! See the "make ahead tips" section of the blog post that contains directions for freezing before baking. I don't recommend freezing leftovers. Hope you enjoy the recipe!
I have made this before and loved it. I’m Taking it to a potluck tomorrow. I baked in the insert of crockpot. Easy to transport and warm up!
I'm so happy to hear that! 🙂
We loved it! Very tasty and easy to make. I even got the grandkids involved in help making it! I have some very happy kiddos. Thank You for sharing.
Miranda @ Salt & Lavender says
That's so nice to hear, Susan! Glad the little ones enjoyed it too!
Paige Winston says
I just used hamburger instead of sausage and it was really good. Thanks!
That's great! I'm so pleased you enjoyed it, Paige! 🙂
Monique Middleton says
Can I substitute ziti for the spaghetti?
Sure! I think that should be fine. I can't say for sure that the same exact quantity will work, but I'd just use your best judgment (e.g. if there seems to be way too much pasta if you make the same amount, leave some out).
I have made this about 4-5 times and absolutely love it! I think the mix of marinara sauce (I use Rao's), cream cheese, and ground beef, makes the most delicious, decadent dish! Thank you for the fabulous recipe, I love your website!
That's awesome!! 🙂 I'm so happy to hear that. Really appreciate your kind comment, Farah!
Joanne Schumacher says
This Million-Dollar Spaghetti Recipe looks delicious!!
Try substituting shredded Mozzarella Cheese for shredded Monterey Jack Cheese. It's creamier and has better flavor than Mozzarella.
Sure, definitely an option! 🙂
Has anyone tried this with gluten free spaghetti?
I have made it with gluten free pasta and it worked well for me. I took off 3 minutes of cooking time to make sure the noodles weren’t too soggy, mushy, or fall apart too easily. I also only used 5 cups of marinara sauce. My kids loved it and I definitely will make again.
Mmmm, home canned cooked sausage and sauce will make this recipe a breeze.
Yes! Let me know if you try. 🙂
Do you think this would freeze well?
Hi! After it's cooked, I'm not sure about, but I do have tips in the blog post on how to make it ahead (freezer instructions).
My Husband loves this! I asked him what he wanted for dinner last night and he said "That baked spaghetti you make!" , it's just the two of us so he'll keep the leftovers for the next few days and half it for almost every meal!
That's awesome!! Thanks for letting me know. So glad to hear that he likes it! 🙂
Natalie myers says
Absolutely loved this million dollar pasta dish. A family favourite ❤️.
Loved the cheesy layer through the middle. Really quick to make and finish in the oven. Served it with a simple green salad.
Ps, really good next day too. Was a little left for my lunch 😊
I'm thrilled to hear that, Natalie!! Thanks so much for taking the time to review my recipe. I'm glad the leftovers were good too. 🙂