In the past few months, I have become quite the Pinterest stalker. I stalk recipes, clothes, décor, arts &crafts, and the occasional profane funny picture. So far, the only things I have actually used Pinterest for has been recipes. In general, I find the recipes on Pinterest to be decent if not a little mundane. Rarely do any of them include salt and pepper, and more often than not, I find myself adding 10 extra ingredients just to make it edible. I’m all for things being easy, but I can’t help but roll my eyes a little every time I see a recipe with a million comments of how AMAZING it tastes, when I’m sitting there thinking, eh it was ok. So keeping in mind the fact that I can’t make anything as is, here is my tweak to the famous Million Dollar Spaghetti recipe that is all over everybody’s pin boards. I’m including optional ingredients, and some pix of how it looks as you go through the process. I can tell you I’ve made it twice and it got raves both times. It really could feed 8-10 people in one setting, or you can do what we do and eat on it for several days.
You will NEED:
16 oz of elbow macaroni noodles
1-24 oz jar of spaghetti sauce
1 room temperature pack of cream cheese
8oz cottage cheese
4 oz sour cream
1 lb of ground beef (preferably ground chuck)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
5 oz of shredded Parmesan or Italian blend with Parmesan and Romano cheeses
1 stick of butter
You could make this dish using only those ingredients. But here are some extras to give it a better flavor. In other words here are the things you should add that nobody on Pinterest uses.
You may WANT one or more:
1 small white or yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons of ketchup
Ok, first things first, make your sauce so it can simmer on low and the flavors can marry. I use this brand, and I love it. I’m not a pasta sauce snob, but I do like my add ins.
To make the sauce, brown your meat, and then drain it. Add the chopped onion and let them sweat it out a few minutes. Splash in some worchestershire to give the meat some flavor. Then go ahead and dump in the sauce. At this point, I add a little water to the jar and shake it so I make sure to get ALL the sauce. For this recipe, I add a couple tablespoons of ketchup to stretch it just a tad. You don’t really have to do this, but I hate to be short on sauce. Now here is where I stir it up and then taste it. I add salt, pepper, garlic powder, minced garlic, onion powder, and hot sauce. Then I put it on low and let it simmer while I do everything else.
Next make your cheese mixture. Mix together the cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, and about half of the shredded parmesan. I use a stand up mixer, but you could do it vigorously by hand. I wouldn’t recommend it though. Taste the mixture and see if it needs salt. Parmesan can be really salty so it may not need any, but check just in case. Set the mixture aside if needed, it will sit just fine for a few minutes.
Boil your macaroni noodles, and cook them past the al dente level. If you stop at al dente, then by the time you get done baking this dish the noodles will be trying so hard to soak up more liquid it will seem dry. So don’t cook them until they’re mush, just until they aren’t super duper firm.
Now start layering. I used a 12×12 dish because it’s the deepest one I have. You can use a 13×9 but make sure it’s of the deep dish variety AND put a cookie sheet under it to avoid spillage into your oven. Spray the pan and spoon a little of your meat sauce onto the pan, top it with a few slices of butter.
Layer on half the noodles. Then spread half the cheese mixture on top and spread it around. It’s best to try and spread it on to really hot noodles so it looks like this:
Top that layer of cheese with several pats of butter. Layer on the rest of the noodles, then spread the remaining cheese mixture on top. Top with the rest of the butter, and sprinkle on that last little bit of parmesan left from that 5 oz container. Now spread your meat sauce on top, and then top it with your two cups of shredded sharp cheddar.
So just to clarify, the layers from bottom to top are, in order: cooking spray, spoonful of meat sauce, butter, noodles, cheese mix, butter, noodles, cheese mix, butter, leftover parmesan, rest of meat sauce, shredded cheddar. Put this all in the oven and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until the cheese is slightly browned. I just got a new convection oven and it cooks so fast I really have to be careful. Here is the finished product:
This is going to become a staple of my favorite meals to cook, and I hopefully you will like this version better too.