Preview: Scooter’s Cream Cheese Spaghetti Casserole is layered with spaghetti, cream cheese, and marinara. Crunchy French-Fried onion rings on top make it the BEST.
What kind of recipe makes your all-star list? I’m talking about an entree you would take to a party, a potluck, or a sick/sad friend?
Here’s my requirements. What about you?
- Easy but scrumptious.
- Made from ingredients you are likely to have in your pantry or are easy to find
- Something most people (including kids and picky eaters) will like
Scooter’s Cream Cheese Spaghetti casserole is a winner in all these categories! But what really makes it stand out is the topping: crispy French-Fried onion rings. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Note: Don’t miss the gluten-free version with zucchini instead of pasta.
Recipes you can make ahead of time get bonus points.
This Cream Cheese Spaghetti recipe fulfills all my requirements. Make it the day before if that helps.
The first time or two may seem like a bit more trouble than plain spaghetti. But with a little experience, you won’t need the recipe. It will come together in a hurry.
Who or what is “Scooter?”
Scooter is one of my favorite people from way back. She is an excellent cook. I’m so happy she is willing to share her recipes.
Tips for making this ahead of time:
Assemble all layers except the onions and cover with plastic wrap, then foil. (Spaghetti sauce will cause small holes in the foil where it touches.) Refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
But don’t add the French Fried Onions when you first assemble the casserole. Hold them back until 5 minutes before the spaghetti is ready to serve.
Sprinkle over the top and return to the oven for about 5 minutes to get crispy. Watch carefully to prevent burning.
Can I freeze baked cream cheese spaghetti?
Yes–before you bake it. Cover assembled but unbaked spaghetti casserole (without onion rings) with plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil. (The plastic wrap is important. Spaghetti sauce can eat holes in thin aluminum foil.)
When you get ready to bake it, remove the plastic wrap and cover it with foil until the casserole is heated through. Remove foil halfway through baking to allow the cheese to brown.
Whether you refrigerate or freeze, don’t forget about the French Fried Onions. As previously mentioned, sprinkle them evenly over the top of the casserole 5 minutes before baking is completed.
Ingredients and substitutes:
GROUND BEEF: Substitute breakfast sausage or Italian sausage for a portion or all of the ground beef. I like to use 50% beef and 50% hot breakfast sausage.
Leave out the meat for a vegetarian meal.
SPAGHETTI: I like to use thin spaghetti. Not as thin as vermicelli but slightly skinnier than traditional spaghetti although that will work just as well.
SAUCE: My favorite sauce is Victoria White Linen Marinara Sauce. It contains less sugar than most. It’s available at Costco as of this writing. Also seen on Amazon.
Have a favorite spaghetti sauce recipe? Go ahead and use it in this recipe. You will need about 3 to 3-1/2 cups of sauce.
CREAM CHEESE: Neufchâtel is a good replacement for cream cheese if you’re trying to cut the fat. Read more about Neufchâtel on this informative post.
You could leave out the cream cheese, but please don’t. It won’t be the same. Even if you think you don’t like cream cheese, it’s magic in this recipe.
FRENCH-FRIED ONION RINGS: Don’t be tempted to leave these out! It would be like ordering a cheeseburger without cheese. What’s the point?
The onion rings and cream cheese layer make this recipe extra special and unique.
If you need gluten-free and/or grain-free, check out these onion rings available at Asian supermarkets and Amazon. They are fried but without a batter coating.
Gluten-Free Version of Scooter’s Spaghetti (with zucchini noodles)
To keep this recipe gluten-free, substitute pan-fried shallots for the onion rings.
You will need at least 4-5 shallots for this recipe. Sautè sliced shallots in a frying pan with a little bit of oil. Fry at med-low temperature until brown, stirring frequently.
How to make Cream Cheese Spaghetti Casserole:
#1 Prepare 8 ounces spaghetti according to directions on the package. Drain and set aside.
#2 Brown the ground beef in a large skillet. Drain excess grease if necessary.
#3 Add spaghetti sauce to ground beef and heat on medium-low.
#4 Combine butter, peppers, and onions into a microwave-safe glass bowl. Cover. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes.
#5 Add softened cream cheese and milk. Stir until smooth.
How to assemble the layers for baked spaghetti:
First layer: Cover the bottom of the dish with 1/2 to 1 cup of sauce, then all of the cooked and drained spaghetti.
Second layer: Spread the cream cheese evenly over the spaghetti.
Third layer: Meat and spaghetti sauce (all of it)
Fourth layer: Parmesan cheese (I use about 1/2 cup). Bake in 350 degrees F oven for 20-30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and heated throughout.
Last layer: In the last 5 minutes of baking, sprinkle French-Fried onions over the top.
Put the casserole back into the oven until onions are toasty. Keep your eyes on it. The onions can burn faster than you can answer the door.
Remember that I warned you earlier that this casserole would take a little extra time the first time or two you make it. It’s not as easy as stirring it all up in a big bowl. Believe me when I say it’s worth it to so you can enjoy all the different textures going on in this dish.
Do you need some bread with that spaghetti?
Did you enjoy this recipe? If so, you can help others and me by leaving a 5-star 🤩 rating inside the recipe below. No comments required.
Hope to see you again soon!
p.s. If you have any questions or suggestions, you can email me privately: paula at saladinajar.com.
Expanded and updated on January 14, 2020.