Oh, the Eight-Layer Casserole – it’s like the Midwest in a dish! This hearty and comforting bake is perfect for those times when you’re craving something warm and substantial without spending the whole evening in the kitchen. It always takes me back to those big family gatherings where a casserole was a centerpiece, igniting chatter and joy among loved ones. What’s great about it is its versatility; you can prepare it ahead, freeze for later, or have it ready to pop in the oven after a long day at the office. Trust me, on a chilly evening, this casserole doesn’t just feed your stomach; it warms your soul!
This eight-layer beauty is a meal in itself, but I love to pair it with a crisp green salad tossed with a tangy vinaigrette to add some brightness to the plate. A side of steamed green beans or buttery corn also makes great companions, especially if you’re feeding a crowd. And don’t forget a slice of crusty bread to mop up all the deliciousness!
– 1 pound ground beef
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
– 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
– 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
– 1 cup water
– 1 tablespoon dried basil
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
– 3 cups rotini pasta, uncooked
– 1 cup cottage cheese
– 1 egg, lightly beaten
– 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
– 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
– 8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
– 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef with the onion and garlic. Drain any excess grease.
3. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, water, basil, salt, and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
4. While the meat sauce is simmering, cook the rotini pasta al dente according to the package directions – you want it a bit firm since it will continue cooking in the oven.
5. In a small bowl, mix together the cottage cheese and the beaten egg.
6. In a greased 9×13 inch baking dish, layer half the cooked rotini pasta, half the cottage cheese mixture, half the meat sauce, and two cups of mozzarella cheese.
7. Repeat the layers, and then top with the well-drained spinach.
8. Finish with the crumbled bacon and a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
9. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.
10. Let it stand for 10 minutes before serving – it’s piping hot!
Variations & Tips
– Feel free to substitute ground turkey or even a plant-based meat alternative for the beef to lighten it up or make it vegetarian-friendly.
– If you have leftover roasted veggies, throw them into one of the layers for extra flavor and nutrition.
– I often mix in a teaspoon of smoked paprika into the meat sauce for a smoky twist.
– You can easily prepare this casserole ahead of time. Just assemble, cover, and refrigerate or freeze. If you bake it from frozen, add an extra 15-20 minutes to the covered bake time.
– For those busy nights or meal prep Sundays, this casserole is a lifesaver. It’s a reassuring hug in the form of a meal, ready whenever you need it!


Leave a Reply

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