- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 5, 2004

If I were Italian, I might instinctively know how much pasta to cook. But I am not, and no matter whether I rely on recipes or consult the side of the pasta box, I usually end up with too many noodles.

So I came up with the idea of capitalizing on this leftover spaghetti. If restaurants can cook more pasta than they need at one time, reheat it and serve it to me, surely I can cook more than I need on night one, reheat it in an altogether different fashion and serve it to my troops on night two.

Spaghetti casserole

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound ground beef round

cup chopped onion (1 small onion)

1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced

1 10.75-ounce can cream of mushroom soup

1 cups your favorite tomato-based pasta sauce (see note)

1 cup pre-shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

4 cups cooked (8 ounces uncooked) spaghetti

2 tablespoons pre-shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

Place olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble in the ground beef and add onion and garlic.

Cook, stirring and breaking up the lumps of meat, until the beef is brown all over and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and transfer beef to a large mixing bowl. (If there is a lot of fat in the pan, drain mixture in a strainer before transferring it.) Add mushroom soup, pasta sauce, cup cheddar cheese, cooked spaghetti and cup water and stir to mix.

Transfer spaghetti to a 13-by-9-inch (3-quart) glass or ceramic baking dish, and sprinkle all but 1 tablespoon of the remaining cheddar and 1 tablespoon Parmesan over the top.

Bake spaghetti in preheated 400-degree oven until it bubbles throughout and the cheese has melted, 18 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle on the remaining tablespoon of each of cheddar and Parmesan and serve at once. Makes 8 servings.

Note: Much of the flavor of this dish depends on the pasta sauce you choose. I found one with fire-roasted tomatoes that was lovely, adding a bit of spice to the otherwise mild flavoring. You can also spice up this casserole with a pinch of hot pepper flakes. TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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