If spaghetti and lasagna were in a romantic comedy together they would eventually overcome their differences and end up like this: blissfully entangled for life, and better than the sum of their parts.
Smash two Italian pasta favorites into each other and you get Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen simple and smart signature entree: Baked Spasagna, a fulfilling dish that anyone who likes pasta—and perhaps even those who don’t—will happily devour.
I realize that my hack must satisfy all fans of the original, and with 163 Cheddar’s locations in 23 states, this top menu item has many fans. Just the right amount of mozzarella and ricotta cheese is critical so that every bite is perfectly cheesy. And the meat sauce should taste as good as the original, but it should also be easy to make. After boiling piles of pasta over several days in the lab, I think I finally hit on the perfect hack recipe for this great dish. And now you can try it out for yourself.
Fire up the stove. Put on a pot of water.
Our story starts with spaghetti.
Get half a box of good spaghetti noodles into some boiling water and cook it until it’s done.
I like using 1/2 pound of pasta for this so the finished product is mega cheesy like the real thing. But if you’d like to stretch out the dish you can use more pasta—up to 1 pound, or any amount in between. More pasta will give you taller servings that you can slice smaller to serve more people.
While the spaghetti cooks, mix all this stuff together in a bowl: mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, half-and-half, salt, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder.
When the spaghetti is done, strain it and mix it with the cheese mixture in a large bowl.
Move all of it into a 9×13-inch baking pan that’s been coated with non-stick spray. But don’t pack it down too hard.
We want the pasta to cook, but not dry out, so covering it is a must.
Peek-a-boo, I see you.
Bake it until the pasta is beginning to turn light brown around the edges. Feel free to peek in on it.
While the pasta is baking, you can make the sauce. Use a big saute pan like this so it can handle all the ingredients. You’re going to be adding two whole bottles of pasta sauce, so make sure there’s enough room. You can also use a large saucepan if you don’t have one of these.
Whichever pan you decide to use, brown 1 pound of ground beef in it, and use a potato masher to break up the big chunks. It seems like I use this masher more often for breaking up ground meat than for mashing potatoes.
Henceforth, I shall now call it a “meat masher.”
Feel free to rename your kitchen tools whenever appropriate.
When the beef is done browning, get it out of there and lightly brown the onions and garlic in the same pan. Don’t even wash the pan. The fat and flavor leftover from the beef will contribute some wanted goodness.
Now the ground beef can go back in there. This time it’s going to be snug since you must also add 2 bottles of marinara sauce. I found Bertolli Reserva Marinara to taste very similar to what Cheddar’s uses, so try to get that one. If you can’t find Bertolli, you can make Ragu “Chunky Garden Style” marinara sauce at home with this recipe. Simmer it for around 15 minutes then turn off the heat and cover it.
When the pasta has finished baking, slice it into 6 even portions.
Add a generous portion of sauce to each serving. You have a lot of sauce, so go for it.
Finish it off with a nice little pile of shredded Parmesan cheese.
And that’s it. You’ve just cloned the top dish from one of the biggest restaurant chains in the southern U.S.
Better pass out some forks.
— Todd Wilbur, The Food Hacker
Cheddar's Baked Spasagna Hack
- 1/2 pound uncooked spaghetti pasta
- 16 ounces (4 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese
- 16 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Olive oil non-stick spray
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 cup diced onion (1/2 onion)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 24-ounce jars Bertolli Reserva Marinara sauce (or your favorite brand of sauce)
- 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the spaghetti and cook for 11 to 14 minutes or until done, then pour into a strainer and rinse with cold water to cool.
- While the spaghetti cooks mix together the mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, half-and-half, Italian herb seasoning, salt, and garlic powder in a large bowl. Combine the cheese mixture with the cooked spaghetti.
- Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with a generous coating of olive oil non-stick spray. Pour the spaghetti mixture into the dish and spread it out with a spatula until it is flat, but don't pack it down. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the inside edges begin to turn light brown. Remove the dish from the oven and keep it covered.
- While the dish is baking, make the meat sauce by browning the meat in large saute pan over medium heat. Use a potato masher to crumble the meat into smaller pieces as it cooks. Drain off most of the fat, then remove the browned meat and set it aside. Don't wash out the pan since you'll be using it in the next step. You want it greasy.
- Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook for just a few minutes over medium heat until the onion and garlic are beginning to brown. Add the meat back to the pan along with two jars of marinara sauce. Cook until the sauce begins to bubble, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- When you are ready to serve the dish, slice the pasta into 6 square servings. Place each serving on a plate and 1 cup of the meat sauce over the top of the pasta. Sprinkle each serving with 2 tablespoons of shredded Parmesan cheese.