A family-favorite recipe using everyday common ingredients and requiring no special cooking skills.
- 1 pound lean ground beef (I used 93/7)
- 1 small onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1 (24 oz) can Hunt's Traditional Pasta Sauce
- 1 (14.5 oz) can Hunt's Petite-Diced Tomatoes, undrained
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon dry Italian Seasoning
- Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 10-12 ounces spaghetti (I prefer thin spaghetti)
- 1 (8 oz) block Monterey Jack (or Mozzarella) cheese, freshly shredded
- Grated Parmesan cheese for serving, optional
In a large, deep skillet (or pot that has a cover) over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef just until no longer pink, stirring and breaking into small pieces with a spoon as it cooks. Drain off any excess fat. Add the onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. (The onion will finish cooking in the sauce).
Stir in the pasta sauce, undrained tomatoes, and water. Cover skillet and bring to a boil; then reduce heat to medium/medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in the Italian seasoning, crushed red peppers, and sugar and continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes with the lid tilted. At this point, the sauce should be reduced and somewhat thickened. This is important or your finished casserole will be soupy. If sauce is not thickened enough, remove cover and continue to simmer for a while longer).
About ten minutes before the sauce is finished, break the spaghetti into half and cook in boiling salted water until al dente according to the package directions. (It will finish cooking in the oven.) Drain well in a colander but do NOT rinse it.
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Remove the sauce from the heat. Spoon a little of it in the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish, just enough to coat bottom. Add the pasta to the remaining sauce, tossing to coat. Lightly spoon the mixture into the casserole dish (do not pack it down). Sprinkle top with the shredded cheese.
Cover dish with a piece of lightly greased (or sprayed with cooking oil) aluminum foil and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until bubbly around edges and cheese is melted. Uncover and high broil for 3-4 minutes, if desired.
Serve hot using a large spoon to pull servings apart (please do not cut it into squares!). Serve with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired, and some hot, toasty garlic French bread.