A finicky guy's exploits in finding gustatory (and other) satisfaction in his kitchen, his neighborhood, and beyond.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Easy end-of-workday meal: Spaghetti "Cake"

What's a food blogger to do at the end of an exhausting workday when he is too pooped to cook, but he has spoiled his D.P. with so many good meals that the D.P. no longer sees any advantage to dining out?  This sad situation transpired in our house on Friday night, and I was forced — admittedly not exactly against my will, as I grabbed my camera and my ingredients and prepared to engage in the Joy of Cooking — I repeat, I was forced to come up with the following easy one-dish meal.

I may be bone-tired (and a bit blurry), but I can still feed my family!

"Easy" may be a little misleading.  If you don't already have the right ingredients on hand, you're in for a rather long slog.  Remember this, my friends, and freeze bits of this and that for when YOU are to pooped to cook.  So what are the ingredients I used to throw this meal together?

  • leftover spaghetti (if you stored this in the fridge w/a little oil to keep it from clumping, you don't have to add any extra oil in step 2)
  • leftover tomato sauce from the freezer (if you ain't got this already prepared, don't expect easy!)
  • an egg
  • olive oil
  • cottage cheese
  • Asiago cheese
  • 1 slice of stale bread
You have probably figured out by now that I am not a stickler for following recipes to the letter.  Just think of this procedure as a template, and use whatever you have around.  I mean, you have to have some sense of culinarity for this.  (Yep, I made up that word.)  You wouldn't want to substitute lime jello for the tomato sauce (probably), but the shape of the pasta and the exact types of cheese can be varied ad libitum and ad yummium.

Here, in an uncharacteristically structured presentation, is an illustrated step-by-step guide to recreating what Michael and Peter enjoyed on Friday night along with a rather nice Beaujolais.  (I adore the "remnants" box next to the register at the wine store almost as much as the cheese ends basket at WF.  You can try formerly pricey vintages at a nice discount, as long as you aren't looking for something very specific.  And there can tend to be some questionable bottles in there, left unchosen by legions of shoppers for a very good reason; a little oenological knowledge is helpful here.)

Step 1: Plop your cooked pasta in a baking dish.

Step 2: Add a drizzle of olive oil and 1 beaten egg and toss thoroughly, spreading the pasta out into a "crust" that fills the entire bottom of the dish.
Step 3: Add little mounds of cottage cheese or spread it out into a whole layer or spell out the name of your beloved, as desired.

Step 4: Carefully spoon your tomato sauce over the top, covering all the cottage cheese if possible.  If you like some bites of pasta to get crunch/gummy (I do!), leave some noodles exposed around the edges.
Step 5: Grate a slice of stale bread and a hedonistic amount of Asiago or other grating cheese and mix together well.  Sprinkle this mixture over the top of the tomato sauce layer and drizzle it with a few teaspoons of olive oil to 1) add richness & flavor and 2) wet it all down enough to keep your convection oven from blowing the crumbs right out of the dish.
Step 6: Bake.  I used my convection oven on 300 degrees for 30 minutes or so — you want the cottage cheese nice and gooey.  If your crumbs are burning on top, you could add foil.  I always find that the burnt bits are the tastiest, though!  Well, up to a point.
That's it — I told you it was easy.  The prep time was maybe 15 minutes (and I was photographing simultaneously, which slows me down a bit).  From assembly to serving in three quarters of an hour; what a joy to be able to sit down to a hearty home-cooked meal after a long workday. . .without stressing yourself.  It makes for a good life, I tell you.

Here's to a great week, everyone, and to getting 25% off whatever brings you happiness!


  1. I make a baked spaghetti that is similar but I've never tried a topping! I'll have to do that! Yum!

  2. This was my first time for adding the topping...the textural crunch and cheesy flavor really enhanced the dish.

  3. Yum! Great improv working with what you had on hand!

  4. ad yummium indeed!

    I want to make this NOT from leftovers (since I don't have anything but lime jello and a dead oven right now), so the ingredients are going on the shopping list for today. The Italian in me will sub ricotta for cottage cheese and with luck we'll be eating it tomorrow night. My non-convection oven better step up and not blow up like its sister.

  5. That looks good--was the egg really necessary? I've made Asian noodle nests on a skillet without egg.

  6. Yes BS_Katharine, the egg is optional, but goops the pasta layer together a little more and adds richness. Leave it out if you're vegan, if you want a lighter dish. . .or if you are simply out of eggs. Depending on my mood, I sometimes add grated cheese as well to the pasta base in this kind of dish. Or herbs.

  7. I've never thought of doing this with leftover pasghetti before.... it looks absolutely delicious! Great idea! Thanks, Michael!

  8. Mmm, the topping looks really great. I'll have to try this next.

  9. We call it Spaghetti Pizza and add veggie toppings and a few pepperoni slices under the cheese.

  10. I guess I've reinvented the wheel! Call it spaghetti cake, pie, or pizza.....it's delicious by any name.

    I love the idea of adding pepperoni....

  11. This looks wonderful. My MIL taught me years ago the wonderful sensation of bread crumbs and tomato sauce. Yummy and can't wait to try it!

  12. mmmm... this looks so good! I make a leftover spaghetti pie which is more like a fritata - eggs, milk, cheese and whatever veggie is left over. But I never thought to do this with a red sauce. Nom nom nom...

  13. This looks excellent,and very easy! I'm going to try it tomorrow!

  14. Made this tonight......it really is delicious and excellent "comfort food" for cold days! I forgot to put the egg in the spaghetti; didn't have "melty" cheese, so had to use Parmesan and mild cheddar, but it STILL turned out really good. I added a little Italian herb blend into the spaghetti with the olive oil, because my sauce was store-bought and a little drab. Thanks for the recipe!

  15. When i don't have any red sauce on hand I make a rather quick one: to a pot in which I have sauteed a little fresh garlic with a drizzle of EVOO, I add a good quality tomato paste, a cup of stock, fresh herbs (or dried), pich of salt, freshly ground pepper, and at the last second after cooking, a good quantity of freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese. It isn't Nonna's, but it's good.

  16. oooh! I forgot the fresh diced tomato.......if it's on hand. I sautee that first with the garlic. Ciao bello

  17. Hi, Sandy! How long do you have to simmer your quick sauce before it's ready to serve?

    Everyone, Sandy is actually Jim, one of my favorite people in this world, who has fed me some really delightful meals and even opened up his home to me for weeks at a time when I was going through some rough times. We unfortunately don't see too much of each other since I moved to the City, but I feel very lucky to have such a loyal — and FUNNY — friend. . .and now reader.

  18. It's rather instantaneous since all the ingredients are already cooked. I simmer it about fifteen mins. tops.
    Thanks for your kind comments. Love you too.