I have so much fun playing around with recipes I grew up with, tweaking those beloved old dishes to fit my own grown-up style. I polled my family by email—my husband, dad, mom, sisters, and their husbands—asking them to name the first dish that came to mind, a favorite that they'd like to see me kick up a notch.
I got three almost immediate replies with identical responses: "Spaghetti hot dish!" My youngest sister even added a piece of trivia to her response, saying she remembered eating this hot dish for the first time while waving her Homer Hanky, watching the Minnesota Twins win the 1987 World Series.
Wow, that was easy! Spaghetti hot dish, it is! (*Note that my husband's response did not reflect the same preference...)
Hot dish is the quintessential main course of the Midwestern table. With your starch, meat, and veggies (usually bound together by a can of creamed soup), served hot in a single dish, it is filling, convenient, and easy to make. If you live in Minnesota or the neighboring Dakotas and bring one of these thrifty dishes to your church basement's potluck, you'll be sure to fit right in.
I grew up eating all varieties of hot dish—tuna noodle, turkey crouton, hamburger rice, tater tot, and beef chow mein, just to name a few. But Mom's spaghetti hot dish was always a family favorite.
The recipe comes from a cookbook of favorite recipes submitted by family, friends, and neighbors where I grew up, in the northeastern corner of South Dakota. On the page opposite the spaghetti hot dish Mom has always made is a recipe from Ruby Bredvik, grandmother of my best friend since kindergarten. Ruby and Arnold used to live in a big ol' two-story house, painted white, right across from the school I attended. I can still smell their inviting little kitchen and see the knickknacks on the windowsill. Flipping through this cookbook, seeing name after familiar name, brings back so many memories of my childhood.
My recipe for Spaghetti Hot Dish with Garlic Bread Crumb Topping uses one convenient Half Stick of creamy and delicious Land O Lakes® Butter. Half sticks are just the greatest thing! I like the smaller size for cooking and baking, and I'm always assured of enjoying the freshest tasting butter.
A bit of the butter is used for the crunchy, garlicky crumb topping, a nod to the slices of garlic toast served with traditional plates of spaghetti. And the rest of it goes into a little sautéed combination of onion and garlic that gets added to the noodles and the fabulousness of fresh Parmesan.
My updates to this spaghetti hot dish that my family holds so dear are numerous and extremely delicious...
- I added onion and garlic (lots of garlic, yay!) , giving the dish extra flavor and depth.
- I grated the Parmesan rather than pouring it from a can.
- I made the spaghetti sauce from scratch, rather than dumping it from a jar.
- I added exciting and wonderful new flavors— briny kalamata olives, sweet sundried tomatoes, and freshly chopped parsley, thyme, and oregano.
- I substituted ground super-flavorful Italian sausage for the ground beef. (I love beef, but ever since I tasted how wonderful Italian sausage is in Lasagna Soup, I just can't help but incorporate it into soups and meat sauces now!)
- And, last but certainly not least, I added a golden crown of buttery, garlicky bread crumbs, a fabulous crispy contrast to the rest of the dish.
After my husband's third helping of this revamped old family favorite, he confessed that he's never been a fan of spaghetti hot dish—that, as much as he loves spaghetti, he'd rather just eat it in its customary form. But he was quick to add that this was the best spaghetti hot dish he's ever had and would gladly eat this in place of traditional spaghetti any day of the week.
My job is done.
Spaghetti Hot Dish with Garlic Bread Crumb Topping
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
For the garlic bread crumb topping
1 tbsp. Land O Lakes® Unsalted Butter
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
For the spaghetti hot dish
1 tsp. olive oil
16 oz. spaghetti
1 1/2 lbs. mild Italian pork sausage
3 tbsp. Land O Lakes® Unsalted Butter
2 tbsp. reserved fat from the pork sausage (or substitute 2 tbsp. olive oil)
1 large yellow onion, diced
6 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan
12 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 16-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 16-oz. can diced tomatoes
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives (or substitute regular black olives)
1/3 cup chopped sundried tomatoes, packed in oil
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
Salt, to taste
For the garlic bread crumb topping
In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt one tablespoon of Land O Lakes® Unsalted Butter. Add panko, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Stir frequently until panko is lightly golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the spaghetti hot dish
Coat the bottom and sides of a large cast iron pan with the teaspoon of olive oil. My pan is 12 inches in diameter, with 2-inch high sides. You could also use a large casserole dish. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add spaghetti. Cook until noodles are just barely soft. Drain.
In a large skillet or sauté pan with tall sides, brown the sausage over medium to medium-high heat. Drain the fat and reserve for later. Remove browned sausage to a plate.
Using the same large skillet or sauté pan (no need to clean it first), melt the 3 tablespoons of
Land O Lakes® Unsalted Butter over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of reserved pork fat and stir. Add onion. Stir and cook for 3 or 4 minutes, or until just softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in egg and Parmesan. Add drained spaghetti to the onion and garlic mixture and stir to coat evenly. Transfer spaghetti to prepared cast iron skillet. Top with mozzarella. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350°.
In the same large skillet or sauté pan (no need to clean it first), add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, and brown sugar. Stir well and turn heat down to medium-low. Stir in sausage and simmer for 10 minutes. Add parsley, thyme, oregano, and black pepper. Taste and adjust with additional salt, if needed. Pour tomato sauce onto the center of the spaghetti in the cast iron skillet, spreading out sauce to leave a 1-inch border of spaghetti around the perimeter of the pan. Spoon bread crumb topping over the center of the tomato sauce, leaving a 1-inch border of sauce around the perimeter. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until heated through. If bread crumb topping needs a bit more browning, place under the broiler for a minute or two. Serve hot.
Source: Greatly adapted from a favorite recipe in our house when I was a kid. Spaghetti Hot Dish by Marilyn (Sather) Mullen, as featured in the Claire City–New Effington South Dakota 75th Jubilee Cookbook.
Disclosure: A Farmgirl’s Dabbles has partnered with Land O’Lakes for an exclusive endorsement of
Land O Lakes® Butter for their Kitchen Conversation blogger program. This blog post is sponsored by Land O’Lakes.