I love the rise and fall of the pasta swirls in this picture of Baked Spaghetti. It’s like a dreamy Van Gogh painting. I think that I should call it “Starry, Starry Baked Spaghetti”. Masterful…..
Ahem. Shake it off, Terri.
Do you like ricotta? Circle yes or no.
I have tried to like it. Really and truly. But I cannot.
It feels suspect in my mouth, as if it can’t decide whether it wants to be cheese or grainy cream-of-wheatish mush. All that, plus I don’t like the flavor.
I’ve told you before that I’m a food heathen.
However, I can get behind cottage cheese. It has character. Clearly, it wants to be cheese. It’s kind of like little baby cheese curds; so cute! You can just hear their tiny little baby cheese voices saying, “When we grow up, we’re going to be a big wheel!”
Get it? “Big Wheel”. Cheese wheel?
Cheese wheel. I’m so funny.
Wheel. Wheel. I’ve said it too many times and now it sounds weird. You do that, too, I bet. Say a word too many times and then it starts to sound strange.
Here’s a word you might like to try out: turophile. It sounds kind of dirty, as if it should be arrested.
Not to worry, though. A turophile is a cheese connoisseur or lover of cheese. I’d like to be one of those and I must say that I could be a turophile if all cheeses were made from cow’s milk.
Coming up in this baked spaghetti are three tasty cow’s milk cheeses: cottage cheese, Parmesan and mozzarella (though true mozzarella comes from water buffalo milk–but a water buffalo and a cow are sort of alike; definitely more alike than a water buffalo and a goat. I don’t do goat cheese. It’s that food heathen thing again.)
Some baked spaghetti recipes use ricotta instead of cottage cheese. If you are a ricotta fan, go ahead and use it in place of the cottage cheese. Note: What’s the difference between cottage cheese and ricotta cheese? The answer is at the end of the post, but don’t look yet. Keep reading.
I really enjoyed the process of making this baked spaghetti. It is similar to lasagna, but the texture is different because there is more pasta per bite than with lasagna. It’s more like eating spaghetti, but with deeper flavor and without the noodle slurp. Angel hair pasta, my favorite pasta shape, is used in this dish rather than regular sized spaghetti noodles. It works very well, giving just the right amount of pasta vs. sauce and cheese.
The sauce is wonderfully flavorful, lots of garlic and onions, rich tomato puree and savory herbs. The Italian sausage is like a deep bass rumble that you feel from the inside out. For a complete meal, serve with French Bread or Quick & Easy Garlic Bread Sticks and a tossed salad.
Here’s a quick visual on layering the Baked Spaghetti:
Do you remember the question that I asked you about the difference between cottage cheese and ricotta cheese? Here’s the answer: In the initial phase of cheese making, milk is acidified or soured. This process causes the milk to coagulate, forming curds and whey.
The curds are a soft, creamy semi-solid pieces of dairy possibilities. The curds can be used to make cottage cheese or they can undergo further processing to be made into cheese. For cottage cheese, once the curds have formed from the milk, they are collected, washed under cool water and drained. The processing stops at this point and the cottage cheese is put into containers.
Whey is the watery byproduct of the cheese making process and is used to make ricotta cheese. The whey undergoes further processing which consists of allowing another 12-24 hours of fermentation. After this fermentation, the whey is heated to almost boiling. This causes the remaining milk proteins to form into small, grainy bits of cheese that precipitate out of the liquid. These grainy bits of curd are collected and placed in cheese cloth allowed to drain. The remaining product is ricotta.