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 a flavor bomb, you guys. 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 a carb and cheese lovefest. It's all-out comfort food. This is heaven!
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 goes into this pasta bake
- 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 kind in a jar, or make your own easy marinara sauce if you're feeling ambitious
- 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 it
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. I used a 5-pack of Johnsonville mild Italian sausages for this recipe, but you can use ground sausage meat if that's easier. Anything up to about 2 pounds will work.
- 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.
Questions about this million dollar spaghetti casserole? Have you ever tried it? Let me know in the comments below!
Million Dollar Spaghetti
- 1 pound uncooked spaghetti
- 1 (17.6 ounce/500g package) Italian sausages crumbled (see note)
- 1/2 medium onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- 6 cups marinara sauce
- 2 cups 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 oven to 375F and move the rack to the top third of the oven.
- In a medium bowl, add the cream cheese, ricotta, parmesan, garlic powder, and dried oregano. Stir it 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, remove the sausage meat from the casings and add it to a skillet, along with the chopped 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. I add a bit of salt & pepper too. 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. 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).
- I used a 5-pack of Johnsonville mild Italian sausages. You can use ground sausage meat if you prefer. Use anything from 1-2 pounds of sausage for this recipe.
- Feel free to change up the cheese layer a bit... you don't need to stick to the cheeses I suggest.
- If you need to soften up the cream cheese in a hurry, pop it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds.
- 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.