Introduction: Oh My Spaghetti Pie (an Old Chicago Copycat)

About: I love to spend time in the kitchen to relax and feed those I love with great eats and treats.

Oh my is the perfect description of this dish, because from the very first bite, you'll be saying "Oh my" until the last bite is gone! This pie is for my middle sister, she eats it at a favorite Denver restaurant, Old Chicago. We were talking about spaghetti pie a couple months ago and she sent me a picture of this and said she'd be thrilled if I could re-create the recipe for her. Looking at her picture I realized this was no "normal" spaghetti pie, this was MAGIC! Why magic? Because they make an ALFREDO spaghetti pie, and serve it on a bed of marinara sauce. Genius!

I've loved Alfredo since I was a kid, buttery, creamy, cheesy, what's not to love? Calories, schmalories, sometimes you need to treat yourself! My dad loves a shrimp pasta dish where they mix marinara with Alfredo, so I knew he'd enjoy this too. My mom loved it as well, and I'm certain my vegetarian oldest sister will request it when she visits. The next time my sister and brother-in-law come home, I hope they can attest to its deliciousness, AFTER they help me make it! They definitely approved of the pictures, and my former-chef bro-in-law gave me some great advice on how to make it like they do in the restaurant.

I searched other copycat versions, but those use jarred Alfredo, I'm OK with a lot of food in jars, Alfredo sauce is not one of them. A truly authentic Alfredo is butter and Parmesan, the version many make adds heavy cream. With salt and pepper that's 5 ingredients, not one jar of Alfredo sauce I looked at contains only 5 ingredients, so I'll go ahead and make my own, it's very easy, I promise. Even the Old Chicago menu reads: This Old Chicago exclusive starts with spaghetti tossed in Alfredo sauce made from scratch daily with Parmesan, mozzarella, Romano and provolone cheeses, topped with even more cheeses and slow-baked to toasty perfection. Served by the slice over our house marinara. 

There are a few steps to this recipe, but they can all be done around, or at the same time, with a little multi-tasking. I will say you can use a good-quality jarred marinara, but the recipe I use, from Cook's Illustrated, can be made in less than an hour, and tastes as if it's been cooking all day. 

I made a roux-based Alfredo, thick enough to coat the pasta and not separate when baked. Reserving a bit for a creamy top, made slightly gooey with a top layer of cheese. Some of the edges of the spaghetti get slightly crunchy (my favorite bits). With each bite you get rich creamy spaghetti Alfredo brightened up with the marinara. Some garlic bread and a side salad are all you need for a perfect meal.  

My dad and I really love Arrabbiata, or zesty marinara, sauce, I believe you could use that as a base for some nice heat if you love spicy foods too.  

Please enjoy this spaghetti pie as soon as possible so you can have an "Oh my" eating experience too! 

Serves 8 

Marinara recipe from Cook's Illustrated, March 2006

Step 1: Gather Ingredients

You'll need:

One 9 1/2- to 10-inch deep dish pie plate, sprayed with non-stick spray

For the Alfredo pie:

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch ground nutmeg
2 cups Italian Five Cheese blend shredded cheese (I used Kraft Italian), divided
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided  
Salt and pepper, to taste
12 oz. spaghetti

For the marinara:
2 (28 ounce) cans whole tomatoes, packed in juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (since I forgot the basil, I used 1 teaspoon pasta seasoning mix instead of just oregano)
1/3 cup dry red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot would also work)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (I unfortunately forgot to buy this) 
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1 - 2 teaspoons sugar, as needed 

Step 2: Make Alfredo Sauce

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (I also preheat a baking sheet on the rack, as I bake all my pies on baking sheets to contain any spills.) 

Remove 1/2 cup shredded Italian five cheese from the bag, and add to a small bowl mixing it with 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan, set aside for topping the partially baked pie. You'll use the remaining 1 1/2 cups plus 1/2 cup Parmesan for the Alfredo sauce. 

Combine heavy cream and milk in one measuring cup.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming, whisk in flour until combined, continue whisking until mixture is smooth and slightly golden, about 1 minute. Gradually add milk and heavy cream, increase heat to medium-high and whisk constantly to combine into a smooth sauce. Bring mixture just to a boil, turn heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a pinch of nutmeg during this time. 

Once sauce is thickened, start adding the cheese, a handful at a time, stirring after each addition waiting until the cheese is melted before adding more. Continue adding, and stirring, until the 2 cups of cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed, you may only need some pepper since the cheese is somewhat salty. 

Turn heat off but leave pan on burner, cover, and keep warm until ready to toss with spaghetti. 

Step 3: Make Marinara Sauce

Cook pasta and begin baking pie while marinara cooks.

Note: I actually halved this recipe, that was a mistake because it tasted so good with the pie, and garlic bread, we wished there was more. 

Pour tomatoes and juice into strainer set over large bowl. Open tomatoes with hands and remove and discard fibrous cores; let
tomatoes drain excess liquid, about 5 minutes. Remove 3/4 cup tomatoes from strainer and set aside. Reserve 2 1/2 cups tomato juice and discard remainder.

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden around edges, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and oregano and cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add tomatoes from strainer and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring every minute, until liquid has evaporated and
tomatoes begin to stick to bottom of pan and brown fond forms around pan edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Add wine and cook until thick
and syrupy, about 1 minute. Add reserved tomato juice and bring to simmer; reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally and loosening browned bits, until sauce is thick, 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer sauce to food processor (or transfer to saucepan and insert immersion blender; and add reserved tomatoes; process until slightly chunky, about eight 2-second pulses (you can make it as thick or as smooth as you like). Return sauce to skillet and add basil and extra-virgin olive oil and salt, pepper, and sugar (I added 1 tsp.) to taste.

Step 4: Cook Pasta, Assemble, and Bake Spaghetti Pie

As you start making the marinara, bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt then spaghetti, stirring occasionally to separate the strands. Cook until al dente (even slightly firmer than al dente since it will soften more as it bakes).

I reserved 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water just in case I needed to thin the alfredo sauce (in the end I didn't, but save the water just in case). Drain the pasta and return to the pot.

Stir the Alfredo sauce again to make sure it's smooth, then add all but 1 cup to the spaghetti and toss to combine. Return the cover to the Alfredo and keep it warm (my oven has a warming burner, if you don't, warm it gently over low heat before topping the partially baked pie with it.) If you feel the sauce is too thick and not coating all of the pasta easily you can add some of the pasta cooking water, a little at a time, until the sauce is thoroughly mixed with the pasta.

Transfer the spaghetti to the pie dish and pat down the top to make an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes. 

Step 5: Finish the Pie, Let Cool Slightly, and Serve With Marinara Sauce

After 20 minutes, remove the pie from the oven. Re-stir the Alfredo sauce so it's once again smooth, top the pie with the remaining Alfredo using a spatula to spread over the entire pie. 

Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup cheese on top of the Alfredo sauce, return to oven for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and light golden brown. Rotate your baking sheet front to back halfway through baking. Remove from oven and let pie rest 10 minutes.

Spread a layer of marinara sauce on each serving plate, or shallow bowl, cut pie into pieces and serve on top of marinara. (If I had some fresh basil I would've loved to sprinkle some finely chopped over the top of each dish.)

Serve, garlic bread on the side is wonderful for scooping up excess sauce, enjoy! 

Leftovers can be stored, covered, keeping the marinara separate, for 3 days. The pie itself reheats well in a toaster oven. I microwaved the marinara sauce while warming the pie. (I'm not sure if reheating the entire dish in the microwave would work well, the pasta might get too dry, but you could try it if you have leftovers and no toaster oven.)

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