Easy Make Ahead Baked Spaghetti

This make ahead baked spaghetti is a budget-friendly, hearty dish that combines tender pasta, a rich meat sauce, and a gooey layer of mozzarella cheese. It takes spaghetti and meat sauce to the next level by baking it in the oven with a little bit of mozza and Parmesan cheese. It’s a crowd-pleaser that’s perfect for cozy weeknight dinners, feeding a crowd, making ahead for the freezer or preparing a care package for someone. In my case, I’m making some for my 20 year old kids who have a new appreciation for mom’s home-cooked food. 😉

baked spaghetti on plate with caesar salad glass of wine
Baked spaghetti with Caesar salad – classic comfort food for us!

Also Read: Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Manicotti, Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Bake, Cheesy Chicken Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Favourite Ingredients for Baked Spaghetti

Pasta: For original baked spaghetti, the obvious choice is spaghetti. But you can just as easily call this Baked Rigatoni or Baked Fusilli or Baked Ziti or Baked Penne – you get the idea – use whatever pasta shape you have and love the best!

Want extra fibre and nutrients in your pasta? Choose whole grain pasta. Just add a little more liquid to your sauce to prevent the dish from tasting dry.

Meat: I vary the type of ground meat I use based on whatever is in the fridge or freezer. Choose beef, chicken, turkey or a combination. My favourite is a combination of sausage and ground beef – talk about flavour! Of course, you can make a vegetarian version using Textured Vegetable Protein, crumbled tofu or your favourite veggie sauce.

Extra Veggies: If you’re like me, you want to load up on as many veggies as you can, when you can. Adding extra veggies into a pasta sauce is a brilliant idea! They add flavour, bulk and nutrients and hardly anyone notices or cares. I usually add plenty of onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms and sometimes fresh or frozen spinach.

tray of chopped mushrooms, onions, garlic, carrots and celery
I add extra veggies to my spaghetti “meat” sauce whenever I can – often it’s onions, garlic, carrots, mushrooms and celery.

Cheese: For the easiest, most straight forward version, I use a combination of Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese as shown in the recipe. However, if you want to add more cheese or use something different – here are some other options:

  1. Ricotta: Ricotta cheese adds creaminess and a slightly tangy flavour to your baked spaghetti. Mix it in with the pasta and meat sauce or sandwich it between two layers of the spaghetti and sauce mix. Check out my recipe for Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Bake.
  2. Cheddar: Cheddar cheese brings a sharp and distinct flavor to your dish. It’s a great choice if you want a more pronounced cheese flavor in your baked spaghetti. You can even blend mozzarella with cheddar.
  3. Fontina: Fontina cheese is known for its creamy texture and mild, nutty flavor. It melts well and can be a delicious addition to your baked spaghetti.
  4. Monterey Jack: Monterey Jack cheese has a mild and buttery flavor. It melts smoothly and can add a creamy texture to your baked spaghetti.

Flavour Makers: Whatever your ingredients or style of sauce, no matter whether you use store bought or homemade – season it well! Taste and adjust as need be. Here are just some of the flavour makers that I use when making spaghetti sauce – red wine or red wine vinegar, Worcestershire, beef broth, Italian seasoning, garlic & onions, fresh & dried herbs and a mix of spices including salt, pepper and Cayenne pepper. If I have it, I’ll also add Parmesan rind to the sauce as it’s simmering.

These are the flavour makers I use – red wine or red wine vinegar, Worcestershire, beef broth, Italian seasoning, garlic & onions, fresh & dried herbs and seasoning.

Pasta Sauce: The recipe calls for meat sauce, but you can use fresh roasted tomatoes, homemade marinara sauce or whatever canned pasta sauce you like best. Remember to taste it and adjust the seasoning to your liking every time.

Top Tips for Make Ahead Baked Spaghetti

Make this dish ahead to keep in the fridge or in the freezer – your choice. Either way, you’re future self will thank you – unless you give them all away!

Make Ahead Assembly & Dish Size

  • Follow the recipe and assemble the baked spaghetti BUT do not bake. Let cool on counter for 1 hour then transfer to fridge to cool completely (without lid to prevent condensation).
  • This recipe, which uses 1 pound of spaghetti and a generous amount of meat sauce, will fill a 9×13-inch (23×33 cm) baking dish for 8 generous servings. Or you can divide it into two to three 8×8-inch (20×20 cm) square pans or two 9×9-inch (23×23 cm) square pans. Baking time will vary slightly, the bigger the pan, the longer it will take to bake through.

Storing in the Fridge

  • Once cooled completely, cover tightly and store for no longer than 2 days in fridge for quality and food safety reasons.
  • For longer storage, freeze.

Freezing Baked Spaghetti

  • Once cooled completely in a freezer friendly container, cover to create an airtight seal. This may be a layer of plastic wrap and a lid, or two layers of aluminum foil or a combination of plastic wrap and foil – whatever it takes to create an airtight seal.
  • Label the package including cooking instructions.
  • Store in freezer for up to 3 months. It will be safe for much longer, but quality will start to degrade.
  • Freeze before baking for best results.
foil trays with baked spaghetti and cheese with instructions ready for freezing
Trays of baked spaghetti ready to freeze – with reheating instructions!

Thawing and Cooking Frozen Baked Spaghetti

  • To thaw, place the frozen dish in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
  • Remove packaging.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes for 9×13″ dish or 20 minutes for smaller dish. Remove cover and bake another 10 minutes until heated through and the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.
  • Technically you can bake from frozen, but it will take about 1 ½ -2 hours – a long time that’s not very energy efficient.

Storing and Reheating Leftover Baked Spaghetti

  • To store leftovers, cool then tightly wrap and keep in fridge for 3-4 days.
  • You can also freeze leftovers. Cool completely in fridge. In convenient portion sizes, wrap or place in airtight container. Use within 2 months for best results.
  • Reheat small portion sizes in microwave. Loosely cover and heat at 70% power for 2-4 minutes stirring halfway.
  • Reheat larger portions in the oven at 350°F (175°C). Cover with foil for 20 minutes then remove cover for another 5 minutes. If spaghetti seems quite dry, add a little water (2-4 Tbsp).

What to Serve with Baked Spaghetti

Honestly, sometimes all we have is the baked spaghetti – no other sides. It’s delicious and filling just as it is.

top down view of baked spaghetti on plate with salad, cutlery and wine
This baked spaghetti is rich and filling – a nice salad on the side is perfect!

When I have the time and energy or company’s coming, I’ll make a salad, some veggies or maybe some fresh bread to go with our baked pasta. Here are some of my favourites to go with pasta.




Recipe for Baked Spaghetti

close up of baked spaghetti on plate with salad
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Make Ahead Baked Spaghetti

A delicious baked spaghetti perfect for tonight, to put in the freezer or to give to someone else. A delicious hardy sauce to go with spaghetti and cheese. Of course, you can use your favourite marinara sauce too.
Prep : 25 minutes
Cook : 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 8
Author: Getty Stewart


For Meat Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 lb lean ground beef or 1lb beef 1lb Italian sausage
  • 1 onion diced
  • 3 celery stalks diced
  • 3 carrots diced or shredded
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms diced (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp sugar as needed
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1/4 cup red wine or 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes 28 oz/796ml
  • 1 can tomato sauce 14 oz/500 ml
  • End of parmesan rind optional
  • 1/2 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup Fresh parsley or basil

For Spaghetti

  • 16 cups water
  • 1 lb spaghetti noodles makes 8 cups cooked
  • 1 Tbsp salt


For Meat Sauce

  • Heat pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 1 minute.
  • Add canola oil to pan and heat for 30 seconds. Not needed if using sausage or high fat ground meat.
  • Add ground beef. Break into pieces and cook until no pink remains. Drain off any excess liquid if needed.
  • Add diced onions, celery, and carrots. Cook until softened and onions are translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Stir in minced garlic and mushrooms (if using). Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Add Italian seasoning, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and sugar. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Mix in tomato paste, beef stock, red wine or red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Stir well and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. The longer it simmers, the more flavourful it will become.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Each batch may vary, so adjust salt, sugar, wine, seasoning, etc., to your liking.
  • If sauce is too thick, add some reserved pasta water to thin it out. The starch from the pasta water will add a gloss, and help thicken the sauce without making it watery.

For Spaghetti

  • Cook the spaghetti noodles according to package instructions, use 16 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt for 1 lb (454g) spaghetti.
  • Before draining, save 1-2 cups of pasta water, set aside. Drain remainder of pasta.

Assemble & Bake

  • To assemble, mix cooked spaghetti with meat sauce. Place mixture in 9×13-inch (23×33 cm) baking dish or two to three smaller baking dishes as desired.
  • Top with shredded mozzarella and half of Parmesan cheese.
  • Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes, remove cover and bake an additional 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly and turning golden.
  • Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes, garnish with parsley or basil and serve with extra Parmesan cheese on top.

Freezing Instructions

  • Assemble dish and cool completely. Do not bake.
  • Wrap tightly to create air tight seal – Use plastic wrap and lid, two layers of aluminum foil or a combination of plastic wrap and foil.
  • Label including cooking instructions.
  • Store in freezer for up to 3 months. It will be safe for much longer, but quality will start to degrade.


Can store in fridge for up to 2 days before baking.
To bake frozen baked spaghetti: Thaw overnight, remove all wrapping and bake as instructed. Add more time as needed depending on how well thawed it was.
Tried this recipe?Mention @GetGettyS or tag #GetGettyS

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Calories: 584kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 19g | Sodium: 1928mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 10g | Iron: 6mg
Course: main dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: baked pasta, meat sauce, spaghetti

What do you like to serve with baked spaghetti? Please let me know in the comments below or show me with a photo on Instagram – tag @getgettys so I can see it and like it!

Select, store and serve seasonal food for everyday cooking with Getty. Getty is a food educator and Professional Home Economist,who loves sharing tips and recipes following the seasons from her Canadian kitchen. Sign up to get seasonal tips and recipes delivered to your inbox. Learn more about Getty or check out her books and pdf guides.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.