This is a super yummy dish that is a nice change up for the regular stand-by of spaghetti and meatballs. Everyone in our house loves it, including my 3 1/2 year old. It is creamy, jam-packed of flavor and incredibly satisfying.
In the summer when the zucchini's are lining up our countertops and filling my fridge I like to grate some up ahead of time and store in re-sealable plastic bags. This way it is super easy to grab a handful here or there and throw it into whatever it is I am making at the moment. Spaghetti sauce is the perfect place to sneak more vegetables into your families diet. When shredded or diced you honestly have no idea it is there, visually. But it adds so much extra flavor and nutrition to your meals. Your kids will never ever know it is there. If you don't have zucchini on hand you can totally skip it. This is a nice dish to add or subtract ingredients with whatever you happen to have in your fridge. But by all means, if you have it use it; grated or matchstick carrots, sliced or chopped mushrooms, grated zucchini, chopped bell peppers... etc. I have done this dish with no veggies except onions and it turns out good too. But we all prefer it with the extra veggies.
8 oz. dry spaghetti noodles (half a box)
2 tbsp butter or margarine
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 well-beaten eggs
1 lb ground turkey or beef, divided (1/4 for meatballs and 3/4 for in the skillet sauce)
1/2 cup sliced onion
1/2 cup-1 cup shredded zucchini (optional)
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1 bell pepper, chopped (optional)
1 (8-oz.) can Italian-style stewed tomatoes (don’t drain) or 4 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cottage cheese or ricotta cheese (I prefer cottage cheese for this, but both work. I use whatever I happen to have on hand)
1/2 cup Mozzarella or Moneterey Jack cheese, shredded
For the meatballs (makes about 4-6 meatballs)
For the pie
Cook spaghetti noodles. Drain. Stir margarine into hot noodles until melted. Stir in Parmesan cheese and eggs. Form pasta mixture into a crust shape in a buttered 9-inch pie plate.
In skillet, cook ground beef and onions, bell pepper and mushrooms until meat is browned. Drain. Add to meat mixture, tomatoes, zucchini, tomato paste, oregano and garlic. Heat through. Spread cottage cheese over bottom of spaghetti crust.
Top with tomato/meat mixture. Cut the meatballs in half and arrange on top.
Sprinkle grated cheese over all.
Lightly cover pan with foil and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove foil and bake for 5 more minutes until cheese is lightly browned. Cut into pie wedges and serve.
Special Note: You can also prepare this dish ahead of time and freeze for later. If you want to go this route, you will cover your pie pan with foil right after assembly; label and freeze. When you are ready to serve: Thaw. Bake, covered, for 25 minutes at 350 F. Remove foil and bake for 5 minutes more until cheese is lightly browned.