Spaghetti Casserole

My mother came by her talents in the kitchen naturally, from her own mother, my Grandma Sarah Doherty. Grandma Doherty and her sister Carrie owned a bakery in Detroit for many years. When I was a child, she lived with us 5 or 6 months of the year and did we love it! Her pies and pastries were out of this world and her homemade noodles could weaken you at the knees. I would come home for lunch from school (Ah yes, we went home for lunch back then!) and noodles would be hanging over open cabinet doors, drying on dishtowels. Mother would grab a batch, boil them briefly, dump them in a frying pan with butter and a little scallion and when they were nearly brown, she dropped in some swiss cheese just to add insult to injury.
We never knew what to expect from the kitchen when Grandma was there. The house always smelled like bread and pastry. However, I think my favorite treat was something called a Long John. Does anyone even make them anymore? Guess it doesn't matter, 'cause nobody could possibly make them as good as Grandma Doherty. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, Long Johns are a rectangular yeast-based donut and Grandma dolloped them with confectioner's icing. Right out of the fryer, words cannot begin to describe....

Mother, who cooked as well as HER mother, not only could do pies and pastries, but was creative as well. She was one of those home cooks who could taste something and go home and replicate it, nearly exactly. Wish I could do that!

One casserole in particular was a long time family favorite. We had it for supper off and on and Mother sent it with us for church suppers, school events and whenever we had to take food someplace. I don't make it much anymore but it was the first dish my middle son taught himself to make and he has been cooking it ever since he left home. Now it's one of HIS family's favorites. It's simple, it's vegetarian and I bet you have every single ingredient needed to make it in your pantry right this minute. There's no reason you can't add meat or just about anything else you like, but I still prefer it plain, simple and very cheesy. In fact, I think whole wheat spaghetti would taste delicious in this dish, so you could at least claim there was something healthy in it! My father used to look at it and ask "Is there something under the melted cheese?" I still like plenty of cheese, cooked until it's crunchy on the top and sides. And wait 'til you taste it warmed up for lunch the next day.

Mother's Spaghetti Casserole


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large can whole tomatoes, drained and cut up
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
1 pound box spaghetti (use just a little less)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup tomato paste (optional, I never use it)
salt and pepper to taste


Sauté the onion in the butter and olive oil. When nearly done, add the garlic so both are slightly caramelized. Set aside. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. Drain the spaghetti and add the onion mixture. Cut up the cheese and add half. Add the tomato ketchup and salt and pepper. If you are using tomato paste, add it here. I don't ever use it.
Pour into a casserole, top with the rest of the cheese and bake in a 375° oven for 35 minutes until brown and bubbly. Serves 4 big eaters with leftovers.


  1. This looks delicious! And love that pic of your grandmother. :)

  2. Amazing. Just this summer I was telling my husband that my mother, A German, would make spaghetti with cheddar cheese and he thought I was kidding. I just might have to try this for nostalgic reasons. Thanks.

  3. Your Grandma look nice and sassy!!!

  4. yum. spaghetti casserole and those donuts for dessert! what time is dinner? smiles.

  5. I love when dishes are passed from generation to generation! This looks like a classic. WHo doesn't like cheesy pasta?!

  6. I do remember Long Johns! What a wonderful story and tribute to both your Grandma Doherty and your mother. Her spaghetti casserole looks simple and delicious!

  7. Looks like you come from a line a fabulous cooks. That's something worth bragging about.

  8. I love these passed down recipes. I did one from my grandma just the other day. I didn't have a photo of her to scan so I called my dad.

    I remember Long Johns too, but I am originally from Michigan too. Of course when I was in an Italian Bakery in Sarasota the owner asked me where I was from because if I wasn't from Jersy why do I like Hermits. (My mom and grandma used to make Hermits) I didn't know it was a Jersy thing:) Okay way off track here.

    This is something I'd love to try, it does remind me of what my mom would make. I love the photos of your grandma!

  9. Baked spaghetti gets me everytime. I love the crunchy top!

  10. I love the pictures of your mom and grandma. They both have a great style!
    Mom's spaghetti looks wonderful and very comforting. Thanks for sharing!

  11. looks great and what a fun post i want those noodles !!!
    thanks for your sweet comments love Rebecca

  12. You mother and grandma look like such fun and stylish people. How lucky you are Babara! The fotos just made me smile ~

    Imagine being able to replicate dishes after tasting them...what a gift.

    And Im bookmarking this dish too...it looks completely mouthwatering.

  13. Lovely story and recipe from the heart of your family. Your mother and grandmother look the some fun ladies.

  14. Fantastic! I can imagine that having it for lunch the next day it would still be super!

  15. You have a fab grandma :), i think its awesome that you come from a family of great bakers. I have had to learn everything from trial and error, and sometimes its pretty frustrating.
    I don't think i've ever had spaghetti casserole before, but i love any pasta dish :), thanks for sharing the recipe.
    Have a wonderful weekend daaaaaahling.
    *kisses* HH

  16. Jessica: I have so few of her, but this is a great one!

    Susan: Never knew this was a German dish, but Grandma's parents were German.

    Leslie: She was!

    Brian: Ummmm....oh those calories!

    Hungry: This was never written out so had to measure as I cooked!

    Susan: Have you seen them anyplace? Bakeries around here don't carry them.

    Devon: I don't hold a candle to them, but my sister does.

    Lyndsey: Yep, she used to make hermits too. (You must be freezing in Sarasota! It't 35 here right now, feels like 25!)

    Pam: The crunchy top makes the dish!

    Foodie: Great recipe for a quick dinner on a cold night!

    Rebecca: Wish you lived next door and you would have gotten some!

    Zurin: Being able to replicate a dish is a gift. Not many can do it but we can all make our own version!

    Mimi: They were. Sadly, both are gone now.

    Trissa: Makes it even crunchier!

    HH: I'm not nearly the baker they were, but my sister is close.

  17. I love the pictures and tribute to your grandmother. It's so much fun to read about dishes that are passed down from generation to generation...tried and true is the way to go.

    This casserole sounds delicious. I could see myself having leftovers, cold, for breakfast.

    I'll also take a long john, thank you very much.

  18. Oh yum, I love dishes with crusty cheesy tops. I can definitely see how this dish would work as leftovers!

    Such wonderful photos of your mum and grandma, they certainly look like they knew how to have fun.

  19. Barbara, What a wonderful story about your mother & grandmother. Now we see were you get your culinary talents and style.

    Your mom's spaghetti is comfort food at its best. Many thanks...

  20. Great post. Love the pictures. I do remember Long Johns, I've eaten way to many of those over the years. That spaghetti looks wonderful. Thanks for this.

  21. Spaghetti looked great! Long Johns are easily obtained from any bakery in G.R. MI- but Marge's on 28th st. are the best!

  22. Happy New Year Barbara!
    Your spaghetti with that gooey cheese looks so comforting dear!YUM!

  23. What great photos of two incredible women! The Knight loves baked spaghetti, so I'll have to give this a try.

  24. Barbara... this just feels like home!!! My mother made something so much like it... I never had the recipe because it was in her head. Thanks for this wonderful gift!

  25. Joanne: The problem always is they didn't write most of them down!

    Shaz: I guess everyone loves that crunchy, cheesy top! Yes, my mother and grandmother had great senses of humor.

    George: Thank you for the kind compliment! This casserole is super comfort food.

    Lea Ann: Tell me about it! I'm kinda glad they are not that easy to find around here.

    BD: Figures they's still be made in Michigan! My sister loved them as much as I did. I will pass the info on to her.

    Nazarina: I know. I wish I had some left over for right now!

    Channon: You're right, they were incredible. I miss them both very much.

    Long Past: I had to work out the amounts...it was in my head too! My sister said she was relieved to finally have it written down. writing!

  26. What lovely reminiscence, Barbara.

    I've never heard of Long John before. You see, this is what I find so intriguing within the history of food.

    Truly enjoyed this post. I hope you don't mind if I include it on a post I did for National Spaghetti Day. I'd love to share...

  27. Mom's recipes are always the best! Lovely casserole and great pictures :)

  28. what a wonderful post! the dish looks great also!

  29. Such a lovely story and so nice to read about your Grandmother and Mother. I miss the heavenly smells of both my grandmother's kitchens so much. You must have loved going home for lunch when your grandma was there cooking and baking such delicious meals...how wonderful!!
    The spaghetti casserole recipe looks great and even better, I know my three sons will love it.

  30. So simple, sounds so good. I am always envy people who have family recipes.

  31. Louise: So glad you enjoyed the post!

    Ellie: I agree. And while it's fun to try lots of new things, we can always depend on the old recipes.

    Teresa: Thanks!

    Bunny: I don't think we bake breads and pastries as much now. I miss those smells too!

    Bryan: Couldn't be easier!

  32. Sweet post! Your spaghetti pie would be a big hit here, we grew up on my grandma's "sauce" of ketchup and fried onions slopped over spaghetti!

    Your grandma's donuts look super! I love the old recipes, keeps the memories going for years!

  33. This one is right up my alley...very similar to the spaghetti pie recipe we have been making for years!! YUM!

    Those homemade noodles fried with scallions and cheese sound out of this world good!!! My grandmother was an incredible chef and I still make and love her spaghetti gravy sauce to this day! Boy would I love to be able to make homemade noodles too.

    Happy Monday!

    :) T

    p.s. I came home for lunch every day too...

  34. What a beautiful post! Two influential women.

    Those doughnuts must taste wonderful. I love their name! Pasta casseroles rule!



  35. Those pictures are terrific--those ladies look like spitfires! Must run in the family. :)

    I have a spaghetti casserole recipe not too different from this. Children love it!

  36. Food legacies are the best...they really live on forever! This casserole looks amazing, I love the crunchy/cheesy top!

  37. Dishes: I knew about that sauce! Funny!

    Tracey: I watched her make them and have the recipe. They really are not all that difficult. Just regular egg noodles.

    Rosa: It's a perfect name for what they are...and they are kind of crunchy on the outside when they come out. Delish!

    TKW: You hit that nail on the head!

    Faith: They are terrific, but as I mentioned above, so many times they are not written down. Sad.

  38. when I read the title "Spaghetti Casserole", I almost just skipped past, but now that I see the pictures, I can't wait to make it!

    how awesome that you come from such a long line of cooks in your family :)

  39. The spaghetti casserole looks heavenly...I love a cheesy, crunch top.

    I haven't heard of Lonh john's but I would love to try one.

  40. My husband would LOVE this. I must make it. I envy that you grew up with such fabulous cooks. My mom and sister hate to cook, and my MIL is fabulous at it but hates it, so I'm the odd one out...

  41. Hi Barbara,

    I loved seeing the photos of your Grandmother and Mother and loved hearing about how great cooks they were. The food you have shared looks delicious and thanks for the casserole recipe. Would like to give it a try.
    I can just imagine the beautiful smells coming from the kitchen!

    Have a great week

  42. This looks so good! And those rectangle donuts - YUM!

    (And I adore the pictures of your grandmother and your mother - they look like two very spirited women!)

  43. Barbara I love your pics! and your spaguetti look winderful and tasty, so nice, gloria

  44. Those pastries look amazing! Feel free to pass on the recipe. hint, hint :)

  45. Megan: Glad you didn't skip it. Perhaps I should be more creative with titles?

    Katherine: Long John are sheer heaven! At least the way my grandmother made them.

    Duck: You made up for it with your pecan pie!!

    Carolyn: Back in those days, we also had to take home ec. I learned the basics there- cooking, sewing etc. Think they should still made it mandatory. Suppose everyone would be up in arms if anyone suggested it, but the pleasure it brings through the years is immense.

    Phoenix: They were both pistols, for sure.

    Gloria: Really is good! But you sure have to love cheese.

    Jacqueline: Oh dear! That's the thing. My grandmother made them, but not my mother. My grandmother passed away soon after I married so I never got the recipe. Mother made pies etc. but she never made Long Johns.

  46. What a classy lady!! I have yet to meet a grandmother who is not a great in the kitchen.

  47. What a lovely post, Barbara. I love the sweet photos of your grandmother and mother. I treasure family recipes like yours. They bring back so many wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing.

  48. I know all about Long Johns..My son loves them. I have never made them but would love to try someday!

  49. Thank you so much for sharing your family photos and this special recipe! The spaghetti casserole looks excellent!

  50. Could your mother and grandmother possibly look more alike? How wonderful! I'd love one of those Long Johns right now!

  51. What a great story! Those noodles of your grandma's sound amazing! And so does this spaghetti casserole!

  52. Well, I was SURE I'd commented on this! Because it's the perfect dish--warm and hearty, easy to make, appeals to everybody, good left over. I think that's the hat trick, isn't it?

  53. baked is my favorite way to eat spaghetti, probably because of the mounds of cheese involved. a sprinkling of parmesan just won't do it for me. :)
    great post, barbara--i loved reading about your mom and grandma, but i must ask--what the heck is your grandma holding?

  54. I just love the photos. Thanks for sharing one of your family's favorites. I do love crunchy cheese out of the oven. Also, thanks for sweet comments.

  55. Barbara, love the picture of your grandma and mom and what you wrote...the photos as very precious :-)
    I never tried to bake spaghetti, will try now!

  56. Maya: My grandmother was brilliant in the kitchen! We loved it.

    Cathy: I can't believe it but I only found about 5 photos of my grandmother, but this one (with the fox furs they all loved back then) was irresistable.

    Flourchild: I've never made them either..but oh man were they good.

    Natasha: It's really good, especially if you love cheese!

    Unconfidential: My daughter and I both look like them too!

    Karly: And those noodles are really easy to make, too.

    Kate: Absolutely. Leftovers are the best!

    Grace: Fox furs,my dear. A hot item back in those days. Funny, so that's why I chose that photo. I have one of my mother with hers on from the 40's. Must post it sometime.

    Teacher: The best recipes are usually the ones passed down. And the most fun to share because every family has their own favorites.

    Julianna: I know. Spaghetti and baked don't seem to go together, do they? But this really is faux spaghetti and it's wonderful baked.

  57. This casserole looks delicious! Donut King sells Long Johns here - but fills them with cream or custard as well as hvaing icing. They used to be my fave when I was 17 and worked at Cut Price Deli - Donut King as just across the way.

  58. Did you say yeast based doughnut? The sound of those words stop me every time but I've never had Long Johns! Must search for them now!

  59. Brilliant! You should write a cookbook!

  60. oh what a great idea with pasta! Looks wonderful!

  61. Spaghetti looks awesome...have to stop myself from digging in.

  62. Cakelaw: I read someplace that when there is filling, it's not a real Long John. Grandma NEVER put filling in hers.

    Jessica: Yes, yeast-based. They're more light and airy than an old fashioned donut.

    Duck: I did! But it was privately published and was filled with family photos and recipes.

    Simply Life: It's really a fabulous dish, a little fattening though. ;)

    Momgateway: I finally gave it to neighbors so I wouldn't eat it all!

  63. I could easily eat your mother's spaghetti casserole all day. I love food that is simple and delicious.

    Cheers to your grandmother. I am always amazed at the aromas and smells that stick with us through the years-It creates such wonderful memories. I can imagine the smell of pasteries and frying up fresh pasta-Oh my!

  64. This sounds delicious!!

  65. Oh wow, just look at that gorgeous crispy cheesy top. Heaven! I love the pics of your mom and grandmother.

  66. Ahh no wonder you are so gifted in the kitchen with a pedigree like that. I've never heard of Long Johns but know that I would love them out of the fryer! :)

  67. Velva: The kitchen was always a bustling place... and I can still remember how the aromas made my mouth water.

    Lecia: It is!

    Bridget: I have lots of wonderful photos of my mother, not so many of grandma.

    Lorraine: They were slightly crunchy on the outside and soft as butter on the inside.

  68. What a delicious spaghetti dish!! My entire family would so enjoy this, especially the kids.. are you going to tell us how to make those special donuts..they look amazing!

  69. Crunchy top is the best. Especially if it's cheese. This takes me back to my childhood.
    Mom looks like a real character by the way!

  70. I love that you are carrying on such wonderful recipes from your family... and it looks like you are just as amazing if not more then your ancestors!




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