The Big Mistake You're Making With Baked Spaghetti From Scratch

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, comfort food is defined as "food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically any with a high sugar or other carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking." While macaroni and cheese and ice cream are some of the most popular American comfort foods, when it comes to Italian comfort food, baked spaghetti is a top pick. Think of it as a cross between spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna, with spaghetti noodles tossed in sauce then covered in cheese before being baked in the oven. It's all things creamy and cheesy — basically, it's filled with carbs and absolutely delicious.

Or rather, it's delicious if you make it correctly. Like most casseroles, baked spaghetti isn't too tough to make. (Mostly, it just requires combining the ingredients and then dumping them into a 13x9 pan). However, there is one common mistake that many people make that can turn your baked spaghetti casserole into a mushy mess. 

You're overcooking the spaghetti noodles

When making baked spaghetti from scratch, one of the easiest faux pas to commit is overcooking the spaghetti itself. Fortunately, there are two easy ways to correct this. First, when you cook the noodles separately before adding them to the dish, make sure to only boil them until they are al dente. Because the noodles will continue to cook when they are in the oven, you do not want to cook them fully beforehand or they will get overcooked later on. You will know when your spaghetti is al dente when the noodles are tender yet firm and have a faint white core, Cook's Illustrated explains.

Another mistake that can overcook your spaghetti is covering the casserole while it is in the oven. According to blogger Spend with Pennies, placing foil or a lid over your baked spaghetti causes it to steam up inside, which leads to overcooked, mushy noodles. Plus, she points out that baking it uncovered not only cooks the noodles properly, but also gives your casserole that crusty cheese layer. Win-win!