Turning Your Home Into an Italian Restaurant: Spaghetti Pie!

spaghettipie“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”  -Julia Child, My Life In France

It smells like a fine Italian restaurant in our home tonight, and it is all due to a beautiful recipe Sally introduced me to - Spaghetti Pie! (And she says it is Nathan's favorite, so she makes it every time he comes home! A definite comfort food for everyone! And it is easier than Lasagna--but just as pleasing!)

My family is up in the kitchen, watching the clock run out of time so that they can dig in to this foreign creation they have never before had! In our home, lasagna & manicotti are our go-to heavy Italian meals, which are labor intensive and time consuming when you cook from scratch.

This recipe begs to be doubled or even tripled! It is a quick and easy way to make a dinner that tastes like mom’s homemade lasagna, although it only takes a fraction of the time to assemble and cook! I love to make lunch - size spaghetti pies by using a muffin tin. This gives you 12 go-to after school snacks or a great addition to your salad at lunch! Cook, cool, wrap up in plastic and place them all in a gallon size ziplock bag and place in the refrigerator.

Ingredients: 2 tsp olive oil 1/2 cup onion - diced 8 oz baby portabella mushrooms - diced 1 pound ground beef (or 1/2 pound Italian sausage 1/2 pound ground beef) 1/2 tsp garlic salt (or 1 clove fresh minced garlic) 1 tsp dried oregano (or Italian seasoning) 1 tsp dried basil Salt and pepper to taste 6 - 8 oz. spaghetti noodles (depending on your pie dish) 2 Tbsp butter (optional) 3/4 cup parmesan cheese 2 eggs - well beaten 1 cup cottage cheese - blended 1 8 oz can of diced tomatoes 1 6 oz can of tomato paste OR 1 small can of tomato sauce 1 tsp sugar 1 - 2 cups fresh mozzarella cheese - grated *Optional: pinch of Italian seasoning to finish on top of mozzarella

 Directions: In your skillet, over medium high heat, saute onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the mushrooms and saute until cooked through. If using fresh garlic, add garlic and stir into the onion and mushroom mixture for 1 minute. Add ground beef to the skillet and stir until completely cooked. Add dried herbs, salt & pepper to taste. In a colander, carefully drain off any excess oil. Return the meat mixture to the skillet and return to a medium heat. Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and garlic salt if not using fresh garlic. Turn off heat and set aside. You can also use immersion blender for sauce if your kids are not fond of a more rustic style sauce with diced tomatoes. This will make your sauce a smoother spaghetti meat sauce.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook spaghetti per instructions on package. Drain. Then stir in butter, parmesan, and eggs into the warm spaghetti. Pour spaghetti mixture into a 10 inch pie dish and press in to form a spaghetti crust. Spread the cottage cheese on top of the crust. Add meat sauce mixture. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes then remove from oven and top with shredded mozzarella cheese and return to oven to bake for 5 minutes longer to melt cheese.

Cultivating a delicious meal that "wows" your family doesn't have to be time consuming and filled with extreme difficulty. Turn your home into your favorite Italian restaurant tonight. Light candles, put down your favorite red tablecloth, and you can even grab the "Little Italy 1930 Radio" station from Pandora for free (it is so much fun and really creates the Italian ambiance)!

Enjoy Little Italy tonight!